Government accused of rejecting Green pollution Bill for FF legislation

Coveney to write to European Commission on intent to ban microbeads in cosmetics

Grace O’Sullivan (Green):  accused the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government of “incompetence” for its late reaction and said it should start with her Bill, not Fianna Fáil’s. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Grace O’Sullivan (Green): accused the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government of “incompetence” for its late reaction and said it should start with her Bill, not Fianna Fáil’s. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The Government has been accused of allowing political expediency to trump its commitment to protect the environment. Senator Lynn Ruane (Independent) made the claim as the Government rejected legislation from Senator Grace O’Sullivan (Green), which bans the use of microbeads and microplastics in toiletries and cosmetics because of their polluting effect on marine life and the environment.

Ms O’Sullivan’s Micro-Plastic and Micro-Bead Pollution Prevention Bill was published in October. Ms Ruane said the Government waited almost a month and less than 24 hours before the legislation was to be debated to raise objections.

The Green Party Senator said she was introducing “straightforward, easy-to-use legislation” to deal with these tiny round plastic beads used in exfoliants, cleansers and multiple cosmetic products, which were then going down the sink, “seeping into our lakes, rivers and seas” and being eaten by marine life, which then died. Ms O’Sullivan accused the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government of “incompetence” for its late reaction and said it should start with her Bill.

“It is obvious that the Government is preventing the progression of this Bill due to the recent publication of a very similar Bill by Fianna Fáil,” Ms Ruane said. “We are allowing a good Bill to be caught up in who gets credit for passing the legislation.” However Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney (FG) said the Government would develop proposals to ban microbeads nationally in the context of a wider marine environmental Bill to be published next year.

He said there were flaws in Ms O’Sullivan’s legislation, including its failure to include detergents and scouring agents, the lack of investigative or enforcement powers and disproportionate penalties. He would write “in the next few days” to the European Commission signalling the Government’s plan to introduce a microbeads ban.

“We will start a process that we need to trigger to ensure that when we do introduce legislation it’s not challenged by the industry,” Mr Coveney added.

He echoed Ms O’Sullivan’s comments about the growing international opinion against microbeads; it was already banned in Canada, while a prohibition in the US and UK would come into place in 2017.

Senator Paudie Coffey (FG) said it was already national policy to work towards the banning of microbeads. He urged Senators “not to take offence just because Government doesn’t accept your particular Bill. You are doing a job of work by bringing awareness and debate to the House.” Sometimes opposition Bills would inform or urge Government to take action, he added.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connell (FF) said her party could not support the Bill, claiming it was poorly drafted and that a number of its proposal were not properly thought through. “Fianna Fáil will be bringing forward a Bill with a stronger, more robust framework.”

Senator Gerard Craughwell (Ind) said he believed that the department suddenly woke up to the Bill and, because of other issues being dealt with, it did not have time to handle the Bill and decided to “shoot it down”.