Thursday, 29 April 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
57. Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the investigation that has been held into allegations of widespread illegal dumping of waste from here in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12212/04]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Gallagher): I have emphasised that there can be no excuse for illegal waste activities, either in the form of illegal movements of waste to another jurisdiction or illegal dumping within the State. I have identified the effective operation of the regulatory regime for the waste sector as a key priority and I have introduced a number of significant initiatives designed to achieve more vigorous enforcement of the waste code.
First, I took the opportunity in the Protection of the Environment Act 2003 to provide new enforcement powers for the environmental authorities concerned and to increase the maximum fines that can be imposed for contravention of the waste code. Second, I have recognised the need for improved structural arrangements to underpin the enforcement effort. I announced last October details of the establishment of a new office of environmental enforcement, OEE, to be located within the Environmental Protection Agency. While it has a wide remit, the OEE, at my request, is focusing on waste related enforcement activities as a priority. Third, I have allocated €7 million from the environment fund to support the first year of a major five year programme of local authority waste enforcement activities. The aim is to provide a stronger and more visible local authority enforcement presence on the ground and to ensure more frequent inspections and speedier responses to reported instances of illegal dumping.
I am not in a position to comment on individual cases of suggested illegal dumping in this jurisdiction as the investigation of such complaints is a matter for the relevant local authority, the OEE and, in certain cases, the Garda. As regards reported cases of illegal cross-Border dumping in Northern Ireland, I am aware that there are ongoing contacts between the relevant authorities, North and South. In addition, I met with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Ms Angela Smith, MP, earlier this month and we discussed, amongst other environmental issues, the need to ensure effective co-operation between the respective authorities in dealing with illegal cross-Border movements of waste. I agreed with Ms Smith MP that a meeting of all the key authorities concerned, North and South, would be convened to establish how, collectively, we can address this problem more effectively. I expect that arrangements for this North-South meeting will be finalised in the coming weeks.
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