Organisers agree not to release helium balloons


The Dublin Castle launch of Ireland’s EU presidency on New Year’s Eve was altered at the last moment when an environmental group objected to the release of 40 helium-filled balloons on the basis that they could end up as “lethal marine debris”.

After Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) contacted both the Taoiseach’s office and the EU’s Blue Star education programme, it was agreed that the balloons would be secured by long string and taken home by schoolchildren involved in the launch.

FIE director Tony Lowes told the organisers: “It has been well established since a Canadian marine conference in 1989 that the release of gas-filled balloons is an environmental hazard.

“The fragments can become lethal ‘marine debris’, a hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey.”

Neale Richmond, Blue Star Project Manager, said: “Following consultation with the Department of the Taoiseach, the ceremony was rearranged to include a “secure balloon release”, not a general balloon release.

“All of the 40 balloons had extra long string attached.”