18th December

Debate ‘darkens’ over proposed salmon-farm project

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For the second time this year, BIM’s proposal to site a large salmon farming operation in theoutreaches of Galway Bay near Inis Oírr is the subject of our front-page story. By now, no one can be in any doubt that this proposal has managed to raise the volume – if not the quality - of debate as it works its way through the planning system to an eventual Ministerial decision.

Those who oppose sea-based fin fish aquaculture have again shown themselves to be formidable opponents, and the closer we get to a decision, the more intense their arguments become.

As Inshore Ireland went to press we learnt that the Office of the Ombudsman had opened preliminary investigations into two formal complaints from environmental lobby group, Friends of the Irish Environment against two government departments: the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for allegedly deliberately withholding information from an EU Commission investigation; and the Department of Foreign Affairs for its alleged stance in dealing with the EU Commission.

 Mislead by misinformation

We live in a democracy so therefore the FIE is perfectly entitled and within its rights to pursue its agenda by using the democratic mechanisms of the State. That said, what the FIE is not entitled to do, is to mislead the public by seemingly being selective with passages from inter-departmental communications in order to bolster its case.

Friends of the Irish Environment has gathered a body of material on its opposition to sea-based caged salmon farming which is displayed on its website. On the Galway Bay project alone it has almost thirty links to downloadable material.

At the heart of our lead story in this issue is an email between senior civil servants in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. This email should be read – very carefully.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the email and its attachments is readily available for examination; however the email ONLY appears on the FIE website. If nothing else, the email shines an interesting light on the way civil servants communicate with each other. In order to clearly understand all the complexities of what is being discussed in this email, the attachments referred to ought to be included.

It is not acceptable to make an argument by selectively quoting what suits. And this – either by accident or by design – is what seems to have happened here. By all means let’s encourage and facilitate lively and robust debate over the issues likely to impact our fragile environment. More importantly however, let’s ensure that all the evidence is available for people to make up their own mind. 

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