The Irish Times view on the Derrybrien windfarm penalty: An abject failure of policy

Court of Justice decision damages Ireland’s reputation but is only the tip of an iceberg of environmental mismanagement

A wind turbine: The Government has had to acknowledge our very poor response to the climate crisis

A wind turbine: The Government has had to acknowledge our very poor response to the climate crisis

 

The Court of Justice of the European Union has imposed a €5 million fine on the State, plus ongoing daily penalties, for failing to complete an environmental impact assessment (EIA) – ordered in a 2008 judgment – on the Derrybrien wind farm in Galway. This very large facility has been developed and operated by a subsidiary of the ESB. The judgment damages our national reputation but is only the tip of an iceberg of environmental mismanagement.

Misty international publicity campaigns promoting green credentials can no longer conceal the abject failure, in multiple cases, of Government policy, agencies, and semi-State companies to do even the minimum required by law to protect landscapes, their ecosystems and, ultimately, the welfare of our people.

The Government has had to acknowledge our very poor response to the climate crisis. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) recently reported that 85 per cent of threatened habitats are in bad or inadequate condition after decades of supposedly protective designation.

Semi-State companies need to take into account the welfare of people and the environment

Repeated refusal to get the details right and to transcend departmental boundaries guarantees abysmal environmental practice. Bord na Móna is still responding in piecemeal fashion to a long-foreseeable crisis. Where is the overarching plan that delivers on its promises to restore and rehabilitate devastated bogs, and create diverse renewable energy projects, in ways that will protect environmental health and staunch the flow of jobs from its inevitable, if belated, decarbonisation? Why was its ecology team downsized? Similar questions need to be answered about its new plan with Coillte – welcome on the face of it – to plant 600,000 native trees on 15,000 hectares of bog. Have EIAs or appropriate assessments been initiated for this ambitious but ecologically very challenging project?

Semi-State companies are driven by a 1980s privatisation mindset that prioritises only economic profit. They need to take into account the welfare of people and the environment. These are inseparable and policies must reflect that essential fact.

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