18th January

Widespread pollution behind Ireland’s self-styled green image

For the Irish tax-payer trying to grasp the magnitude of our national debt which is measured in the billions, news that the country has been fined a mere €2.7 million - plus a daily penalty of €26,173 for not implementing on time key EU environmental legislation – might seem like very small change indeed.

Do the sums however, and that daily penalty mounts up to an annual bill of €9.5 million – and will be recurring until the necessary legislation is put in place.
Suddenly, the figure is not that insignificant anymore – especially when you realise the clock will keep ticking until Brussels is satisfied that Ireland has implemented fully the essential checks and inspections for its 400,000 septic tanks in order to protect both public health and the environment.
To be haemorrhaging almost ten million Euro unnecessarily and indefinitely – is hardly what this country needs right now. Such a sum would surely go a long way towards stimulating imaginative job creation measures for an economy on its knees and already dangerously over-burdened with debt.
But let’s forget about that significant financial cost for a minute.
The fact that Ireland for the second time in eighteen months has been hauled before the European Court of Justice for failing to satisfactorily implement EU environmental law is something we shouldbe ashamed of – and especially our legislators.
What message is it sending out worldwide to the tourists who might be considering a holiday here? And hot on the heels of the global exposure Ireland enjoyed during the recent high caliber visits?
That Ireland is a modern European country seemingly unable or unwilling to get its environmental house in order.
Twenty years after the Commission produced an EU-wide legislative environmental road map that signposted clearly what was required for the aquatic and terrestrial environments – Ireland has been well and truly found out.
The political ducking and diving that seemed to keep the Commission at bay for two decades will save us no more. Ireland has finally run out of road, and we are now to be hit where it hurts most - in the national pocket.
Anyone who doubted the sincerity and determination of the EU Commission to pursue Ireland is left in no doubt that it means business.
And as we bask in the afterglow of back-to-back state visits by Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama and with one commentator after another speculating on the plane loads of visitors expected in the aftermath, the image we sell abroad of a land with a pristine environment, quite frankly and ashamedly is a fraud.

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