George HW Bush and the EPA

 

Sir, – It is always fascinating to read of the contents of government papers released under the 30-year rule, particularly as a former member of Dáil Éireann during the period to which the papers relate. Among the many subjects of interest referenced this week is the report in The Irish Times of US president George HW Bush agreeing in a meeting with then-taoiseach Charles Haughey in February 1990 to “provide advice and to fly experts over to Ireland” to help establish an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and also promising to make available the resources of the US EPA to assist in the creation of our agency (“Bush agreed to provide advice to help Ireland establish the EPA”, News, December 28th).

This December marks the passage of 31 years since I published, as Fine Gael’s environment spokesperson, in November 1989 the first Bill to come before the Dáil to create a fully independent Environment Protection Agency.

The Bill was designed to facilitate the agency, free of government controls, comprehensively address myriad environmental issues, including climate change. In prioritising environmental concerns it also sought to give statutory effect to the precautionary principle.

The then Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats government opposed the Bill and prevented its further progress by defeating it in a Dáil vote on December 13th, 1989.

Preparing the 1989 Bill involved my engaging in a comparative analysis over a period of six months of then existing legislation of relevance across the globe, including the legislation relating to the US EPA, identifying its gaps and flaws and anticipating likely future environmental degradation of our planet by human behaviour. Unfortunately my concerns then have been proved by time to be accurate. When opposing the 1989 Bill, the then-government promised its own EPA Bill. At the time I believed that little progress had been made by government in the drafting of the urgently required legislation. Some 31 years later, your report of George Bush’s February 1990 offer has confirmed my belief. To what extent the advice given resulted in a watered down version of the EPA I originally envisaged being later established remains a mystery. – Yours, etc,

ALAN SHATTER,

Dublin 16.