Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to make one or two points to conclude my Second Stage contribution. Yesterday I made the point that the Environmental Protection Agency will have a very important role to play. Problems have been created throughout the country due to inadequate sewerage and dumping facilities. Will the Minister provide the necessary funding for such facilities? In my constituency of Sligo-Leitrim major water supply and sewerage schemes are awaiting sanction by the Department of the Environment. In Sligo the north Sligo regional water supply scheme which will cost £1.2 million, has been awaiting sanction by the Department of the Environment since 1987. This is one of the most popular tourist areas in the northwest and the lack of a proper water supply is causing serious problems.

Illegal dumping throughout the country has been increasing over the last number of years and local authorities have not the funds to provide adequate dumping facilities. The towns of Carrick-on-Shannon, Manorhamilton, Moville and Ballinamore have all had major problems because of lack of dumping facilities. They have requested the local authorities on numerous occasions to provide adequate dumping facilities but to no avail. The local authority have appealed to the Department who have not seen fit to provide adequate funding to alleviate the problems. It is farcical to establish this agency when the Department cannot provide adequate funding and are thus causing environmental problems. I do not know how things can be sorted out between the agency, the Department and the local authorities.

In my area there is increased afforestation and over the last number of years it has been proved that forestry causes pollution especially when pine needles fall into rivers and streams, decay and turn to acid which is harming fish life. My area depends on coarse fishing and the plentiful afforestation is causing pollution which will have serious knock-on effects in the area. If the Minister of State used her influence with the Minister for Energy an appropriate planning permission scheme for afforestation could be implemented. At the moment one only needs afforestation planning permission for an area of 200 hectares or more. Most private developers, and even Coillte Teoranta, are buying up land plots of 20 acres and 30 acres which they can plant indiscriminately beside rivers and streams. This is causing grave concern. The planning authorities should be issued with new guidelines and restrictions should be placed on afforestation.

Environmental issues have been placed at the top of the agenda for the past few years. There was a sudden realisation that we were endangering the stability of the planet. People suddenly started talking about the ozone layer. It took us a while to understand what that was, and even though today, many people still do not know what the ozone layer is, they have an idea at least that it is in danger, that a lot of damage has been done to it, that somehow the protection they had from the harmful rays of the sun is less than it was and they are in danger of contacting cancer as a result. We have also heard a lot about the greenhouse effect. We have been educated as to the potential damage, and to the actual damage that has been caused to the environment. On the European political scene, a party who espoused environmental issues, the Greens, made quite an impact. That opened our minds to the fact that there were votes in it, or at least that established parties could lose votes if they were not mindful of environmental issues. So we all turned green at that stage. Whatever the motivation, it is good that we are now conscious of environmental issues. I suppose that is bad news for the Deputy in the House who was elected on the green ticket as he is now merging into the background. However, I am sure he will be able to handle that. It is good that we will be able to hand on a better world to our children. That is very important.

We have been very lucky that we did not do the kind of damage we could have done to our environment. There are a number of reasons for that. We have a relatively sparse population and that limited our ability to damage the environment. We were late into mass production in agriculture as well. That came with our accession to the EC only 20 years ago. Industrialisation here is a modern thing. We avoided some of the monstrous factories that could have enormously damaged our environment. We have been lucky but we should not congratulate ourselves because our environment is better than other countries. That has more to do with our location and the lateness of our development; we did not have the opportunity to do serious damage to our environment.

However, it is just as well that the things I mention are so. We are still indiscriminately dumping waste every week. Local authorities are collecting waste and dumping it at landfill sites all over the country. I wonder does anybody know what is in them, even today, when we are conscious of the environmental damage that might be done. We know that there is household waste in these landfill sites and generally speaking, that is quite harmless, but I wonder what else is in it? Are there various chemicals finding their way into our dumps? Are toxic substances still finding their way into our dumps? Are old car batteries being smuggled into our dumps in the midst of other waste? Are fridges also being dumped? I have a feeling that that is the case still but maybe not to the same extent as before, because people are much more aware of the possible damage that could be done. In the past, landfill sites have taken all sorts of material. Since I came into politics and became conscious of this issue, I have held the view that those landfill sites in certain parts of the country are timebombs. In my area some of these landfill sites are located on porous rock, limestone, and the management of these sites certainly leaves a lot to be desired. There has been indiscriminate dumping there but no management, except to push the rubbish over the edge of the tip and add some earth from time to time.

I wonder what is happening as water seeps down through the material. What type of substances is the water picking up as it finds its way down to the water table. Luckily, whatever substances are there are not finding their way into the underground water in concentrated amounts. There is quite a lot of dilution going on and, I suppose, some natural filtration and, therefore, some of the worst aspects of the damage that might be done is probably not happening at all.

I often wonder if the public are aware that if they pour something down the sink, like acid or some other dangerous liquid, those substances can find their way back into the water supply, because my information is that that happens. Water always finds its way back into the mainstream of our water bodies one way or another. If this kind of thing went on in a concentrated way we would have a very serious problem. It is the sparsity of our population which has ensured enough dilution to minimise the problems that might arise.

During this Second Stage debate I heard many Deputies complaining about the pollution which has been perpetrated by local authorities. The Minister of State and, I would say, every Deputy in the House has experience in their own areas of a local authority which allow pollution to take place on sites where they are totally responsible. I have had that experience and, listening to other Deputies, I understand they have had the same experience.

Only last week I heard a debate in the House about a recent pollution in my area of a very important fishing lake where specimen bream have been pulled out every year. This summer the lake was very badly polluted; it has been polluted every summer. When I say summer I do not mean it is only happening in the summer but it is more evident in the summer than at other times. Lough na Glac is the name of the lake in question. This year it resembled a green field. There was a danger that we might lose some of our tourists. It was very hard to distinguish this lake from the fields around it because there was a very strong growth of green algae on the lake. It was obviously full of nutrients and we discovered later, as a result of a court case, that the local authority were responsible for that pollution, or at least the major part of it. I did a tour of the lake and its environs about two weeks ago and I am of the opinion that that pollution may still be going on although the local authority, with the aid of the Department of the Environment, have been trying to sort it out.

An extension to the treatment plant is almost complete and when it is complete and functioning properly, the water will be of a better quality than it has been. However, the plant is still unable to cope with the amount of raw sewage at present and that position will continue until the Minister decides to grant aid an extension to the plant. I have indications from the Department and the Minister that if the local authority produce the plans that problem will be sorted out next year.

I put down a question to the Minister and asked a number of supplementary questions, I asked the Minister if he would say who was responsible for the pollution. The Minister kindly answered all parts of my question, except that one. He was being very coy and was not willing to take responsibility.

It is disgraceful that local authorities should be polluters. As they are the agents of the Minister and the Department of the Environment, the Department have to take responsibility. If they do not, that will give rise to widespread public cynicism. It is a bad example. Since this practice is widespread, it would suggest that the Minister is presiding over a very murky area. The law makers in this case are the law breakers; those who are charged with protecting the environment are, in many instances, destroying it; those who are charged with trying to sustain what we have are, in fact, diluting it. In these circumstances, it is no wonder the public feel they have a licence to do likewise. This practice breeds irresponsibility.

This legislation will be broadly welcomed by many but I would be very critical of it. I will be questioning whether there is a strong enough commitment in Government to make this kind of legislation work. As I went through the Bill I found many nuances. Many of the things this Bill tries to do could have been done and having effect if the Government had been committed to providing resources to local authorities and the other agencies. I am of the opinion that there is a lot of window dressing here. It seems that the Bill will go through the House in a form close to that originally introduced. It is a wonderful concept, a nice idea but will it end up as an ornament? It will be an empty gesture if there is no Government commitment.

I can think of many examples where that happened. There was an unholy row a couple of years ago because the Ombudsman could not operate because of a lack of cash. When he went public the embarrassment created eventually resulted in the provision of cash and thankfully the office of the Ombudsman was protected and he is still doing valuable work.

A new Child Care Act was signed into law in July. I wonder when the various provisions of that Act will be implemented. I have a feeling that it will be many years hence before all provisions are implemented. Very often our commitment to new legislation is questionable. I can see the reason a Minister would like to introduce a Bill in the House. It might encompass his aspirations and be politically good for him in that at election time he could refer to the fact that he had done this great deed. However, if it is left aside or not backed up by the necessary commitment and the sections not brought into force it is no more than an ornament, an ugly one in many cases.

The intoxicating liquor Act comes to mind, in particular the section which deals with under-age drinking. It has been on the Statute Book for three years but the will is not there to implement it. Each weekend thousands and thousands of breaches of that section go unheeded by the forces of law and order. Nobody pays any attention to it or is concerned about it. Surely it would have been far better if that section had not been written in the first place as it only brings the whole process of law and order into disrepute. Indeed, we could be accused of criminal neglect of our youngsters by not enforcing that section, yet we carry on as if we are great people. In some respects the Garda are also to blame because they are not raising their voices about their inability to put that section into operation. This Environmental Protection Agency Bill could also end up as a fine piece of window dressing. There is no doubt it is good for the political image today but it remains to be seen if there is any substance in that.

I asked the question whether the Bill is necessary and if it will achieve what might be achieved in any event. Some of the Minister's comments on the foundation stone of the Bill disturb me. In the Seanad she said that the 33 major local authorities, who are charged with implementing environmental legislation, were generally doing a good job and had been implementing the law quite efficiently until recently. All of a sudden, it seems, they lost their heads and were not able to apply the law as it should be applied. The Minister gave a number of reasons for this. She said they could not provide the expertise necessary to fulfil their licensing function. How could they when the Minister would not provide the necessary funding?

If the Department would not supply the funding or expertise the local authorities could not do so because they are totally dependent on the Department for the moneys necessary to carry out this function. I wonder if the passing of this Bill will suddenly make it possible for the Department to supply the expertise necessary. My cynicism tells me that that is unlikely. The passing of the Bill will hardly change matters a great deal. The Minister's statement is rather strange logic.

The Minister's objection does not stand up. She is saying that she and her senior partner in Government have been starving local authorities of the necessary funds and as a result they have not been able to carry out their functions properly. She is saying that as a result a new Bill should be passed to sort it out. That is not so, we need proper funding. A new Bill will not make this any more feasible if the commitment is not there. If it is not there today I wonder will it be there next year? Therefore, the Minister's objection to the way local authorities have been carrying out their functions is entirely groundless. The problems lie in her own and her senior partner's office.

The Minister also said there was a loss of public confidence in the system and there probably is. She blamed local authorities and other bodies for this but she has to take the responsibility on her own shoulders and share it with the senior Minister in the Department. It is not a question of local authority irresponsibility, rather the lack of funding is the main problem.

The Minister went on to say that she had three priorities for the agency: (1) that they should be independent of Government, local authorities and other bodies, (2) that they should have the power to carry out their functions effectively and (3) there should be transparency. The Minister indicted the political system. If we read between the lines we can interpret what she said as follows: that politicians are entirely irresponsible, one cannot trust them, they are not effective and their actions are not transparent. Is that the Minister's view of politicians and political action. If politicians cannot be trusted to carry out their functions effectively then passing this Bill will not make a great deal of difference. If there is no transparency, as the Minister suggested in her Seanad speech, in the way politicians do their business then passing this Bill will not be of enormous help.

Are there not other and better remedies? Would it be a good idea, for example, to tell the public about this and ask them to change the politicians rather than set up another semi-State body to take on some of the functions of the politicians which the Minister believes the politicians cannot be trusted to handle? If we continue with this line of thinking we will end up in a situation where the politicians will hand over all their powers little by little. At the end of the day our democracy will be rather hollow with a series of little monarchies and independent bodies not answerable to anybody in carrying out their functions. I take issue with the bedrock on which the Minister is building this legislation. If she believes that, she has a remedy and she should seek to change the politicians instead of changing the system.

The Minister knows that she is in a unique position. The Bill is a damning indictment of our political system and indeed the Minister was unequivocal in her statement to that effect when speaking in the Seanad last February. If she had been making her speech to the Seanad this week it might have been clearer. The Minister is in a unique position because she and her colleagues have the power — whether they have the competence is another matter — to force changes in our political system. If she wants transparency she should have made a serious attempt to bring it about last Wednesday, for example, and she and the members of her party are still in a position to do it. They can hold out for transparency if they want it. I am sure that most Members agree that honesty and transparency are essential ingredients of healthy Government. Indeed, the Progressive Democrats founded themselves more or less on that principle——

The Deputy is straying from the Bill.

He certainly is.

Political action can be effective and transparent in these matters and I am using that argument because I believe it was the basis on which the Minister decided to put this Bill together. I am saying it is unnecessary because there are other ways of bringing about the advantages which will accrue from the provisions of the Bill. This legislation is mostly window-dressing and unnecessary.

Strong local government is essential for the health of democracy and any studies I carried out and visits abroad I made since I was elected have strengthened my view in that regard. If we have strong local democracy we are quite likely to have responsibility locally, which is quite different from our present system which breeds irresponsibility locally. The big and important messages throughout the eighties filtered to the public very slowly unless they were in an area served by a very strong local democracy. It is sad that this does not exist and it will not exist while this attitude, that local democracy is basically irresponsible, persists.

The Minister probably started by wanting an independent watchdog on the environment, indeed she said that in her Seanad speech. She said that a simple idea for an agency evolved into what is now before us. She called into question the impartiality of public authorities in their decision making, which was a very serious accusation. I did not read all the speeches in the Seanad, so I do not know whether Members defended local authorities against that accusation but, since it was made, I wonder if heads rolled. I do not think they did; I do not remember cases where that arose. Of course the Minister always had the power and the responsibility to bring the perpetrators of irresponsible acts before the courts. If they were convicted it could be a salutary lesson to other people who might also be considering irresponsible actions which might harm our environment. Indeed, the Minister is really accusing herself because the people she accused are her agents, acting on her behalf and on behalf of the Minister for the Environment. In other words, she and the Minister have responsibility for these decisions.

If the principle that the buck stops here was applied to Government in general as well as to local government, misdemeanours of the type to which the Minister referred and of which she is aware, would certainly be infrequent. However, we know that principle does not apply to the Government. We have had ample examples of that in recent times——

Again, the Deputy is straying considerably from the Bill.

I am trying to develop an argument which suggests that the Bill should not be before the House. There were other, much simpler ways of achieving the provisions in the Bill which was born out of frustration with the kind of political climate which the Minister seems to observe. These matters are an integral part of my argument.

I would much prefer if the Deputy would address his remarks to the measure before the House.

Our political system will certainly impinge on the effectiveness of the Bill and that system led the Minister to produce the Bill in the first place.

The Deputy is clearly seeking to circumvent the ruling of the Chair in bringing in extraneous matters.

I am sorry, I had no intention of circumventing your ruling. I notice that the agency will have a budget of about £8 million, of which £4 million will come from redeployment of staff and agency fees. The Government will put another £4 million into the kitty. Could the Minister not have insisted that the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research Limited — formerly An Foras Forbartha — should have been strengthened and, if necessary, given new functions? However, this organisation have been starved of cash and, therefore, cannot be effective and efficient. If the organisation had been supported and strengthened the Minister could then insist that they could do what they were set up to do.

The Bill introduces new integrated licensing, of which I approve, but surely this could be incorporated in a Bill which would amend the Planning Act of the early sixties. I notice in the Bill that An Bord Pleanála are being side-stepped as regards certain appeals and the reason given is that the expertise is not available to them. Could that expertise not be got from another source on an agency basis? I am certain it could and without the introduction of this Bill.

The agency, according to the Bill, will provide guidelines and back-up for the local authorities. Surely it is not necessary to set up an agency to provide guidelines. Surely the Minister and her Department are competent in providing guidelines for certain actions and activities, transmitting them to the local authorities and ensuring that the local authorities carry them out. Obviously there was no need to introduce a new Bill to ensure that guidelines and back-up to local authorities were put in place.

The agency will carry out environmental monitoring. That could be part of the role of the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research Limited. The agency will co-ordinate environmental research, which is in the same category. We did not need to set up an agency to do that work; it could have been carried out by existing agencies. The agency are to involve themselves in procedures for environmental impact studies. I read that sentence a couple of times and came up with the notion that the agency will decide how environmental impacts are carried out. They will not get involved in the carrying out of these studies but they will see to it that they are carried out. Again, there is no need to set up an agency specifically to do that job. It could be done by the Department. This is a matter that is appropriate to the Minister, and her agents could see to it that whatever she decided would be done.

The agency will be responsible for promoting the conduct of environmental audits for existing developments. They will not conduct the audits themselves although they may have the power to do so in many cases. Again that is a matter appropriate to the Minister and the local authorities. It is their function under existing legislation, and there was no need to remove that function from them. All the Minister has to do is ensure that local authorities have the personnel and the expertise necessary to carry out these functions. Therefore, as I have said, there is no need for this Bill.

Another function of the agency will be to establish a labelling scheme for environmentally friendly products. There is no doubt but that is laudable and will be a great advantage but is it necessary to set up an agency to carry out that function? Could the Minister not do that work in her own office and ensure that it is policed and carried out elsewhere by her agents? She could have given that function to the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research Limited.

I acccept the theme of the Bill. We certainly need to protect our environment. We need to ensure that the damage that has been done is undone as far as possible and that in future as little damage as possible is done. We all agree on that. I believe, having read the Bill a number of times, that we do not need such a Bill to achieve these objectives. I have a notion that this is an elaborate hoax. The Minister is tearing down some structures and is using the same bricks to build new ones. She is changing the name and getting the same result as she would had she taken a different course of action.

The sad thing is that underlying this whole issue is the ineffectiveness of politics. The Minister has decided that politicans are not responsible, are not able to carry out their functions and cannot be trusted with making decisions with regard to the environment. That is what concerns me most. The underlying message in the Minister's actions is that we cannot trust politicians, that they would take actions that are bad for the country. The Minister should be trying to strengthen democracy rather than introducing this Bill and transferring functions to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Minister has said that it will be an offence under the act to lobby any member of the board or employee of the agency with the intention of influencing improperly a matter to be decided by the agency. She has laid great emphasis on that in her speech. Nobody would say that the Minister is naïve. I wonder is she of the opinion that because that provision is in the Bill there will be no skulduggery, or that the odd phone call will not be made. Is she of the opinion that that will engender public confidence? The Minister is not naïve and she knows well that it will not engender public confidence. Public confidence will not be restored in a day. Certainly it is good to see that provision in the Bill because it means that people will be responsible and ethical in their approach to these matters. However the Minister knows well that it will certainly not achieve what she has set out to achieve. She knows that many a time somebody has walked the plank but when you look for the footprints you cannot find them, and that is unlikely to change in the future.

Answerable for the actions of the agency will be to themselves and the Minister rather than to this House. This Bill is built on a polluted bogland of Irish politics. That is the basic ethos that the Minister tries to deal with in the Bill. This is an entirely unnecessary reaction. The Minister should scrap the Bill and set up an environmental watchdog such as an Ombudsman. It would not need to be an elaborate measure as is the case with this agency. The people with responsibility in this area, local authorities and other agencies, should be allowed carry out those responsibilities. They should be given the necessary resources and it should be insisted upon that the functions are carried out. If necessary in cases where functions are not carried out the full rigours of the law should be applied. In that way we would have a much better political system and a more responsible and responsive local authority system.

If the principle that the buck stops here was introduced into Irish politics we would have more responsible people making decisions. Ministers would ensure that those making decisions were well aware that they were making them in the Minister's name, and Ministers would take full responsiblity for all such decisions. That is not the case at present and the Minister are forever ducking situations. Last week I instanced the case where the Minister for the Environment would not admit that his agents were in fact the polluters of Lough na Glac in Carrickmacross. He answered all other questions but he would not answer a question about that. This illustrates how the buck never stops at the Minister. The Minister should concentrate on doing something about that rather than producing this elaborate Bill, which as I have said throughout my speech is entirely unnecessary. If she manages — and she is in a unique position to do so — to get general acceptance that accountability rests with the Minister, the buck stops at him or her and that the Minister is responsible for the actions which his agents carry out on his behalf, we will have solved a great problem and have gone a long way to becoming a more effective Ireland. My argument rests.

Deputy Cotter asks if the Bill is necessary? I certainly believe it is necessary and there is a need for an independent agency who can provide information, set standards and carry out all of the other functions of the Bill and whose work is not distorted by vested interests. In a nutshell that is the reason for the Bill. We will be dependent on commercial vested interests to provide information on critical environmental matters, if there is not in existence an independent agency sufficiently well resourced, professionally equipped and generally enabled to establish such standards and provide such independent information.

There is some truth in what Deputy Cotter says in terms of this legislation, no more than any other legislation, being a product of the political system. He argues for radical change in the political system and obviously I very much agree with that. But I am honestly not convinced that this specific political change which he urges on the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment in terms of the immediate political circumstances in which we find ourselves would amount to an end of an era and an earth-shattering change in the political system. It may be a consummation devoutly to be desired — and in the interests of ending political instability in this country, the sooner it comes about the better — but I do not think it amounts to a radical change in the political system. The progress of this Bill has shown that the working of this House needs to be reformed first.

I would like to congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment for bringing forward this Bill. I am absolutely convinced of its necessity and because of the internal politics within the Department of the Environment she deserves our congratulations for bringing it forward. However I think it is an indictment not just of her but of all Members of this House that it has taken so long to bring this Bill to Second Stage in Dáil Éireann. It has taken more than two years to reach the stage which is unconscionably long in the lifetime of the environment. The Minister admitted in her introductory speech that the debate has moved on in these two years. A delay of two years cannot be justified as a period in which to advance major, urgent, essential legislation. It is a terrible indictment of this House that we have not reformed our procedures, our sitting hours and the number of sitting days and established committees that could tease out a complex Bill like this where there is a need also to bring to bear a certain expertise which I do not claim to have. The Workers' Party spokesperson on the Environment, Deputy Gilmore made an important, constructively critical speech on this Bill but I have no hesitation in welcoming it and congratulating the Minister for bringing it forward. However, I greatly regret that it has taken so long because the environment has continued to be damaged in the meantime. That comment applies to all of us and not just the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment.

Deputy Cotter said that the functions of the Environmental Protection Agency could be given to An Foras Forbartha. Of course, An Foras Forbartha has been abolished and was one of the first to be axed in the cutbacks made by the Fianna Fáil Government in 1987. I very much regret that An Foras Forbartha should have been abolished, I thought it was a disgraceful decision at a time when there was a growing awareness of the importance of the environment. It is true, I think that to some extent An Foras Forbartha had not updated itself and had not remained as relevant as it was when it was established. Nonetheless it provided a critical role in the independent advice that it offered to decision makers within the State. It was regrettable that a decision was taken to abolish it. I presume Deputy Cotter in referring to the fact that its successor, An Foras Forbartha Mark Two, which is called the Environmental Research Unit, is saying that it could perform the functions now being given to the agency. I do not think it could. That is an important distinction which the Minister is making here and I hope that she can assure the House that it will be enforced accordingly. As far as I am concerned the sad thing about the Environmental Research Unit is that it is no longer an independent source of professional expertise and advice, but has been absorbed into the maw of the Department of the Environment. Having regard to how controversial and contentious some environmental issues are it is to our detriment that we do not have an independent objective specialist professional advice and that this unit has now become a specialist wing of the Department of the Environment. I sincerely hope that that is not the fate that the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, intends for this agency, that it should become merely a specialist wing of the Department of the Environment. A great deal hinges on its independence and if that cannot be assured and be seen to be the case then there is merit in Deputy Cotter's argument.

The argument has been made well and everybody accepts the necessity for this agency because of the intensification of agriculture with the attendant danger of pollution and the complacency that exists about industry. We are all convinced at this stage of the necessity for this Environmental Protection Agency. As I said I am no expert as it is not my particular field, but I would like to make a couple of remarks on the necessity, as I see it, to reconcile economic growth with the protection of the environment. I argue that one of the major challenges facing modern Ireland is to reconcile a wealth-producing industrial development policy capable of creating jobs for our people with the need to protect and enhance our environment. Just as an industrial development strategy relying on wage exploitation would be unacceptable to most of our people, so also must we reject an industrial development strategy that depends on ecological exploitation. The era of treating environmental protection as an add-on to industrial development is over. The growing awareness of the environment in the widest sense of the social environment means that economic development at any price is no longer acceptable.

However, it is also apparent that the very concept of the social environment highlights the widening gap in the quality of the environment being experienced by the rich and that being experienced by the poor. The built environment of our capital city increasingly is the focus of that gap. It is only when the coal-burning habits of those whose weekly budgets tie them to the bellmen so pollute the air for those who live in the central heating belt that action is eventually taken on smog control. However, the quality of the environment in huge working class communities within this city is most adversely affected by unemployment, hence the need to accelerate job creation in a manner that does not conflict with standards established by an independent Environmental Protection Agency.

That is no cheap jibe at the fantastic improvements achieved in relation to air pollution for which this Minister is responsible. It is, however, a firm conviction on my part that there is a widening gap between the living environment of the rich and that of the poor in this city and that it was only when the smog problem became so excruciatingly bad that it impacted on those who never see the other half — those who can work, live and play in an environmentally more acceptable part or parts of the city — that action was eventually forced on the question of air pollution and the vested interests involved were taken on. That is evident in many areas of the city where unemployment, for example, is a serious factor in conditioning the social environment.

We need industry, and we will continue to need industry, including more industry based on agriculture. It is evident that in both industry and agriculture there have been and still are enterprises that care nothing about environmental considerations and have consciously done damage to our rivers, to public health and to our environment. Therefore, concern about the impact of industrial development on the environment is perfectly understandable. However, care must be taken to ensure that well heeled more articulate groups are not able to trample on the democratic wishes of the community merely because they are better resourced. There is need for mechanisms short of the High Court to equally hear the less articulate and to arbitrate on the basis of objective standards. I am not arguing that personal rights should be discounted, in fact, the access given to third parties in our planning system is critical and central, but I am saying that the wider community, too, has rights. I am satisfied that the proposed long-awaited Environmental Protection Agency should lay down those standards. However, I believe there is an argument that the onus for monitoring those standards should rest with the local authorities.

Having made the argument for industrial expansion, I recognise that we are still hosting some enterprises in Ireland that apply lower standards here than their parent companies apply in their country of origin. I believe that most of those companies now accept that that position must change. The new agency will be aware, for example, of the requirement in the United States for a toxics release inventory and that regular environmental audits are necessary. I believe that very few industrial enterprises would flee this country because of the imposition of proper environmental standards, especially if the proposed agency can make a contribution, as I believe it can, to the more expeditious functioning of the tedious existing planning process for industrial expansion.

Industry, of course, does generate waste. The task confronting the Minister is not only the disposal of that waste but also the reduction of waste. I noticed that in the Minister's introductory speech she said that we could expect such legislation to be brought forward. I should like to hear her elaborate on that because, given that as the criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency as window dressing, fashionable, and so on is not entirely without substance, the fact that it has become so fashionable has brought it to the forefront of the political agenda.

However, the much more controversial issue of the disposal and reduction of waste is to be tackled, and if legislation to deal with it has to endure a gestation period similar to the one pertaining to the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, then it would seem to me that we could survive the lifetime of this Government — about which we all tremble regularly at the moment — without the Bill having been brought forward, and that would be a tragedy.

The speech made by Deputy Cotter was curious not just in the terms to which I have already referred but also because it confirmed the suspicion in some people's minds that for the Fine Gael Party protection of the environment stops at the farm gate. I should like to hear Deputy John Browne speak on that. That point has to be addressed by Fine Gael Deputies when they criticise this Bill because the legislation introduced by Deputy Shatter in 1989 provided in section 14 that the Bill would not cover animal wastes disposed of in accordance with normal farming practices.

My party were happy to support the Fine Gael Bill, not because it would meet all the requirements we would have liked to see implemented, but because it was bringing forward two years earlier than we expected, the establishment of this agency. The exclusion of such animal wastes from section 14 of that Bill seemed an extraordinary omission as it is known that a unit of milk, is 400 times as polluting as a unit of untreated human sewage, that a unit of silage is 200 times as polluting again, and that a unit of slurry is 80 times as polluting. I am not sure how the Fine Gael Party could have justified the exclusion of animal wastes from their Bill, and I invite Deputy Browne to clear up that criticism.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): You can never clear up slurry.

We had as much slurry as we could take last week, and I do not want to open the sluice gates again.

Deputy Cotter was extremely critical of the Bill. I wonder whether this is not a factor because if the Environmental Protection Agency do not succeed in encouraging some sense of social responsibility on those, albeit a minority, of the agricultural community who have done such damage in the past to our rivers, who do not seem to have any sense of social responsibility as distinct from assertion of individual rights, they will be a failure. That is a critical aspect of it. I am sure the Fine Gael Members representing urban constituencies agree with that.

The Minister and I represent the same constituency. No doubt she is aware that the whole question of land filled sites, tipheads, disposal of waste and so on is a big issue there. I am sure that, while she is in office, she will ensure that the toxic dump so inappropriately planned for our constituency will not proceed. I do not want to be invited into debating why her senior Minister wants to push it into what he used to refer to not so long ago as "occupied Ireland". That is a rather extraordinary position for the Fianna Fáil Party — the Soldiers of Destiny — to take up but that is another day's discussion.

On the question of land filled sites, if I read sections 58, 59 and 60 correctly, the Minister proposes that the ability to fix criteria for the management of these sites and so on be confined to local authority sites. I would be concerned about that in as much as there has been quite a push on in recent years to privatise the disposal of household waste and so on. In the event of that lobby eventually winning out will the provisions of the Bill apply in those circumstances? Under sections 58 and the following ones it seems it will be confined to local authority sites, that the ability to fix these criteria for the management of such sites will not apply if they are in private ownership. I should like the Minister to make some reference to that.

I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister also that, when referring to the lack of care taken by minority sections of the farming community in terms of damage to the environment, I have been specifically requested to use this opportunity to mention to the Minister the fact that there is an environmental group in Kilkenny, called the Clinstown Environmental Group, who are somewhat disenchanted with her. They claim she has not responded to their repeated requests to address herself to serious concerns in the area about the conduct of a particular pig farmer, pig business, where millions of gallons of effluent and slurry from the sheds flow into the adjoining fields without any precautions being taken. That is sited on top of a spring. Children in the local school have become ill — the connection has not been established — but these people are worried about it. Will the Minister say whether she received that correspondence and, if so, whether she will deal with it?

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on its introduction. There is a need for us to believe and go forward on the basis that the requirements of economic growth and protection of the environment can be reconciled, that Ireland is uniquely placed to establish a niche for itself as a country that excels in clean industry, clean products, clean technology. I sincerely hope that the doubts expressed by other Members about the political will behind the Bill, the political commitment to enforce its provisions, are not well founded, that the resources will be provided and the personnel involved will have the professional back-up and commitment to vigorously pursue the implementation of its provisions.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo agus tá áthas orm go bhfuil sé os ár gcomhair. Tá brón orm gur chaith an tAire an méid ama seo ag fanacht leis an mBille a thabhairt isteach mar go raibh Bille mar so ag Fine Gael. Cé go raibh locht ar an mBille sin d'fhéadfaí leasuithe a dhéanamh ar Bille ar bith a thagann isteach sa Dáil. Bheadh sé furast ar an Rialtas leasuithe a dhéanamh ar an mBille a thóg Fine Gael isteach.

Tá sé fíor-thabhachtach go bhfuil cosaint ár dtimpeallacht mar phríomh-aidhm againn. Ní féidir an dochar a cheartú nuair atá sé déanta. Mar sin táim i ndáiríre nuair a deirim go bhfuil fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Téimid ar aghaidh le haireagáin de gach sórt agus déanann na haireagáin seo maitheas don tír agus maitheas do na daoine atá ag baint usáid astu. Ach déanann siad dochar ar an láimh eile. Sin an fhadhb atá ann: de réir mar atáimid ag dul ar aghaidh táimid ag cur brú ar ár dtimpeallacht.

Tá sean-aithne ag gach éinne ar an dán "Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?" Tá an cheist sin a chuir an file fadó in Éirinn an-oiriúnach fós ó thaobh foraoiseachta an domhain de. Tá gearradh síos na foraoiseachta seo ag déanamh dochar don aimsir, ach ní féidir linn anseo in Éirinn rud ar bith a dhéanamh faoi is dócha. Tá fadhbanna ar fud an domhain ag cur isteach orainn anseo ach caithimid rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi na fadhbanna atá againn féin sa tír seo. Is féidir linn go léir a bheith ag caint faoin mbéile deas slisíní bagúin nó muicfheoil a bhí againn. Ach más maith linn muicfheoil caithimid na muca sin a chothú sa tír. Nuair a bhíonn na muca sin á cothú againn, áfach, bíonn truailliú againn. Is í an fhadhb atá ann ná conas is féidir an dá rud a bheith againn le chéile. Muna mbeadh na fadhbanna seo ann ní bheadh gá leis an mBille seo.

Before he leaves the House I should like to assure Deputy Rabbitte that neither the Fine Gael Party nor our farmers would appreciate his suggestion that we were trying in any way to defend pollution. Our farmers have a very tough job in an industry which, of its nature — especially with the advances made in farming methods — presents difficulties. When I was young cows were milked in the cowshed or in the cow cabin; now cows are housed in the milking parlour, with water hosing down the floor, which is kept spotlessly clean. However, all this water leaving the milking parlour goes into the slurry, despite farmers' best efforts.

We should be careful not to blacken farmers as people who do not care about the environment. Some of them go to great expense to install tanks to trap overflows. It is not easy to have everything perfect. Silage is a great advance when one considers the amount of time farmers had to spend trying to save hay when all we had was liquid sunshine. Then there is the difficulty of silage effluent. Perhaps farmers should be encouraged by grants to move more quickly. Many of them have made great efforts but there will always be some people who do not care. Such people will even be in the Dáil; exceptions are everywhere. Fine Gael are not encouraging any group to cause pollution in the countryside, nor are any groups trying to continue polluting activities. We must recognise that old habits die slowly. Farming methods have advanced. Some streams and water courses were capable of taking a certain amount of overflow when different methods were used and it is difficult for some farmers to accept that the same streams cannot take effluent and slurry overflows without damage being caused.

The Minister may not be aware that one of her officers went to a farm not long ago to check for pollution. While walking with the farmer they came to a gate which was not painted and he asked the farmer if he would not paint it. The farmer replied, "Not at all. My father never bothered and my grandfather never bothered." Along the banks of a stream they came to rushes which were six feet high. When the officer asked the farmer if he would not cut the rushes he received the same reply. When the inspection was over and the officer had discovered that pollution was not being caused on the farm, the farmer invited the officer to have a cup of tea. The latter declined, saying it would be to much bother for the farmer's wife. The farmer replied that he did not have a wife. The officer expressed his astonishment this was so, in view of the fact that the farmer had 150 acres of the best land and a fine house. The farmer replied, "I could not be bothered. My father never bothered and my grandfather never bothered."

That is a terrible reflection on the farming community.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Of course not all farmers are like that, but we cannot change everything overnight and we must give people the opportunity to do what is good for the country.

Balance is essential in environment matters. We want to attract industry which will provide employment and enable people to make a living here. The benefits of employment must be balanced against the possible dangers arising from industry. We are all aware of various controversies surrounding new industries. There are difficulties arising from smell, noise and smoke. People who are seeking employment will ask what difference a little smoke or noise can make but these factors cause difficulty throughout the community. If regulations are introduced there must be a follow-up to ensure that industry abides by them. The new agency must insist that things are done so that people who live in the area of a factory are not afflicted by the problems I have mentioned.

Section 106 of the Bill deals with noise. Young people attending discos seem to enjoy very loud music and all of us who have families are aware that they like to have radios blaring. That is fine for young people who are enjoying themselves but it is important that older people should be able to live and to sleep in peace. In my teaching days I used to advise children going on holiday to adopt a considerate attitude. Research has shown that the danger of deafness following prolonged exposure to loud noise is very real and the enforcement of regulations might help to alleviate it. It is not necessary to lose one's hearing if one wants to be a disco dancer.

We have some beautiful rivers. Last weekend I saw a television programme which depicted fish in perfectly clear water off the coast of California. There is nothing as pleasant as a clear river with gurgling water and abundant fish life. We have an obligation to make sure that our rivers will be passed on to posterity full of life and fish. We should have the strictest anti-pollution standards. If an industry causes pollution it is not necessary to lambast the management but it is important to ask them to rectify the matter immediately. At certain times of the year production is at peak in meat factories, for example, and things can go wrong. Most industries are very concerned not to cause pollution.

Fish kills do so much damage to a river that they leave it barren. The river is destroyed as an amenity for the fishing clubs who do so much to promote fish life and to train young people to fish. Often these clubs do the work of county councils by keeping riverbanks free of bushes. It is soul-destroying for them when there is a fishkill.

On the problem of litter, it is unbelievable that people will throw rubbish from their cars, especially when one remembers that throughout their schooldays they were trained not to litter our streets and countryside. The authorities should take action against people who are littering our countryside. It is not good enough to say there are on-the-spot fines if they are only there in theory and are not implemented. Members of tidy town's committees who work hard to keep our town and villages clean and free from litter must find it galling when other people will not bother to put their litter in the bins provided.

Landfill sites are very important but, as in the case of itinerants, everyone wants them located at the other end of the county. Landfill sites are very necessary and we should do all we can to keep them as tidy as possible and ensure that no dumping is allowed outside these sites. It is unbelievable to think that people will dump garbage outside the gates of these sites because they will not go to the dump during normal opening hours. They do not give any consideration to the people who live near these sites and who have to look at bags of garbage thrown outside the gates of the sites over the weekend.

I am surprised there has been no clamp down on the use of plastic bags to dispose of garbage. According to an expert speaking at one of the so-called junkets I attended, the lifespan of a plastic bag is 75 years. It is amazing to think that we are still dumping plastic bags into landfill sites which will be there long after we are dead. I do not know what action we should be taking to rectify the problem, but obviously we should take note of this serious problem.

Section 58 deals with the powers given to the agency to monitor the work done by councils in assessing the quality of drinking water. This is a very appropriate provision, especially at a time when people are worried about the level of aluminium in drinking water. The overseeing by the agency of the work carried out by councils in this area will assure people that what they are being told by the councils is correct. Nothing spreads faster than rumours about our water supplies. Sometimes these rumours are wrong but once people are convinced that something is wrong with the water supply they notice it straight away and can prove that something is wrong. Section 58 which will give the agency control over the monitoring of our water supplies is very important. At present chemicals are used to make water clearer and brighter. However, if something goes wrong people are worried about the harm these chemicals can cause. This is a very topical question at present.

We owe it to posterity to hand on the environment in the best condition possible. We should do everything possible by way of acts, rules, encouragement and advice, to ensure that future generations will live in the best possible environment. It would be a shame if we were to hand on an environment which is in a worse condition than we got it.

I welcome this Bill. Indeed, I welcome any measure which will help to protect our environment. While it is most important that we care for our environment, it is also important that we do not necessarily inhibit further growth in social and economic development. The long term protection of the environment requires integrated policies which will allow a healthy environment to co-exist with a healthy economy.

We have entered the last decade of the 20th century. During this century the world has witnessed the damage pollution has caused to precious elements of our natural environment. While at first these appeared to be unfortunate but isolated incidents affecting only certain species of flora and fauna, we now know the problem is far more serious. Eco-systems are being destroyed and global equilibrium is being seriously disturbed, thereby threatening the quality of life for future generations.

The destruction of our environment can no longer be ascribed to ignorance or simply carelessness. Now that we know the results of our actions we can speak of negligence, deliberate misuse and mismanagement. However, human beings are capable of changing their behaviour for the better in the knowledge that if man's co-existence with nature is to be maintained, proper management of the environment is necessary. We have to build up a relationship with the environment as our natural home so that a new and lasting equilibrium between man and nature can be sustained. If we want a healthy environment and a healthy economy to co-exist, we have to ask ourselves if our industries are economically sustainable. One of the most effective tools for sustainable development is an innovative and flexible business sector, one committed to constantly reducing the impact on our environment by eliminating environmentally unfriendly production lines and the production of cleaner goods and services. Increasing the regulatory obligations of local authorities, mounting public expectations and a new "green" competitive pressure have already led to a sizeable change in outlook among leading companies throughout Europe and elsewhere.

The environment is also a very important issue for the Government. Governments have a two-fold task in this area: first, to give some coherence to the mass of environmental legislation which has been built up in a fragmented fashion over the past two decades and, second, to provide a far-reaching policy framework for the future. A number of countries have been prompted to draw up national environmental strategies or plans which fulfil these tasks. I am pleased that when the legislation before the House becomes law it will be seen as an instrument which will protect our environment. Businesses should not wait for the Government to act. The more they realise their responsibilities the less Governments will have to intervene.

Legislation to protect human health and the environment is not a new phenomenon. Environmental statutes in the United Kingdom can be traced back to the 14th century and probably even further. In many instances new environmental laws can be attributed to a specific incident which, as a result of sufficient public concern, has forced legislation to be enacted. The Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act, 1990, and the Air Pollution Act, 1987, provide a very wide range of controls for the protection of our environment.

While listening to Deputy Rabbitte, I was reminded of my contribution on the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act, 1990, in the other House. On that occasion I referred to the serious pollution of our rivers and lakes by the farming community. However, I went on to say that 99 per cent of farmers were responsible people who did not want to cause pollution and only 1 per cent were irresponsible. That Bill had to deal with that one per cent. From studies that have been carried out I understand that vast improvements have taken place since the introduction of that Bill.

Environmental measures at Community level are becoming an increasingly important driving force in domestic law as it becomes recognised that many issues can only be addressed effectively by concerted international efforts, so that national conventional treaties will assume greater significance. I believe that the greatest challenge facing us in the nineties will be to ensure that international agreements already signed are effectively translated into environmental reality. We can all play our part as policy-makers and legislators in that regard by supplementing existing agreements with the new ones on emerging issues.

The main purpose of the Bill before us is to create a single body, a body which will have integrity in the eyes of the public and will be independent and seen to be independent, so that if the public have an anxiety about a certain development in relation to the environment it can be examined by the Environmental Protection Agency and if it is found to be satisfactory in their view, then that will relieve public anxiety. Being independent in decision-making is one matter but they must also be financially independent.

I would like to comment on the role of the local authority in relation to the Environmental Protection Agency. On the one hand the Environmental Protection Agency is envisaged as the ally, the co-operator or the adviser of the local authority; on the other hand under the provisions of the Bill they are seen in a different role as the policeman or the watchdog of the environment.

Sections 55 and 56 give the agency general powers to advise and assist in relation to local authorities. Section 60 provides for the taking of appropriate action by the agency if the environmental functions of the local authority are not being properly performed. The Minister stated that local authorities will continue to be extensively involved in environmental monitoring and control activities. I welcome the recognition of the fact that local authorities have a key role to play. I have argued in the past and I will continue to argue that local authorities have been local environmental protection agents in their own right. They have been in the front line in the fight against pollution, waste and litter. There is no point in bestowing further responsibility on local authorities unless they are given the necessary finance to carry out these responsibilities.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to the role some local authorities play in the protection of the environment. For the past five years An Foras Forbartha — to whom I pay tribute for the role they have played — and their successor, the Environmental Research Unit, have been working on the production on a draft water quality management plan for the Dublin area. This project was funded by the three Dublin local authorities — Dublin Corporation, Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire Borough Council together with the Department of the Environment. The objectives of the plan include ensuring there is an acceptable quality of water for supporting various beneficial uses of Dublin Bay and ensuring that the available finances for pollution control are used in the most effective manner.

The report has approached its objectives under a number of different headings; to abate and prevent pollution so as to safeguard public health and to protect and enhance the environment of the Dublin Bay area; to ensure an acceptable quality of water for various beneficial uses; to ensure that the ecological balance of Dublin Bay is not adversely affected and, in particular, to protect areas of importance for wildlife conservation; to provide a framework for management so as to facilitate balanced urban industrial port development and to help ensure that the environmental dimension as an integral part of development is related to policies and actions; to ensure that available finances for pollution control are used in the most effective manner and to increase the effectiveness of actions to protect the environment. I mention this in order to draw the attention of the House to the fact that if local authorities are given the proper finances they can produce a report of this nature. This report is in two parts and is worthy of the three local authorities who have produced it. I look forward to seeing the objectives in that report implemented with a view to improving the situation in Dublin, especially in Dublin Bay. While the Environmental Protection Agency is necessary, nevertheless, it is also necessary to fund local authorities further so that work of this nature can be carried out on a voluntary basis by them.

Finally, I wish to make a passing reference to Sellafield. In preparing for this Bill I took the opportunity of reading through the speeches made in the House of Commons during the debate on the Environmental Protection Bill, 1990 — now the Environmental Protection Act, 1990. I was rather surprised that so few speakers referred to the dangers of toxic waste. Last Friday I attended a symposium in Dublin City Hall. This symposium was attended by representatives from Dublin city and county as well as representatives from the local authorities of Louth, Meath and Wexford. The purpose of the symposium was to prepare representations to be made to the planning authority in Cumbria against the proposed development at Sellafield for the building of repositories and caverns for the storage of nuclear waste material.

While Sellafield and the activities being carried out at Sellafield will always be a threat to the Irish Sea and to the Irish nation, nevertheless the building of these caverns will prove an even greater threat, and this is a matter I would like to draw to the attention of the House. I do not believe we have any concept of the size and scale of these caverns. They can, and probably will, extend to an area similar in acreage to that of the Phoenix Park in Dublin. As I have stated the proposed repositories for active waste will have significant implications for the Irish Sea and Ireland as a whole. In view of this I would ask the Minister of State and the Government to support the local authorities in opposing the building of these caverns every inch of the way.

The Bill is most suitable for Committee Stage during which I am sure there will be a lively debate and many queries will be answered by the Minister. We are now entering the last decade of the 20th century, during which time the world has witnessed damage and loss through pollution of precious elements of our national environment. It is, therefore, very appropriate for us in Ireland to begin this decade with a Bill which I hope will play a prominent part in the protection of our environment.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill which provides for the setting up of an agency, whose sole purpose will be environmental protection: to control, monitor, regulate and provide support and back-up services and co-ordinate environmental research, a topic of great concern to politicians and, indeed, the general public. Environmental challenges face all of us. Some previous speakers referred to environmental education. It is generally recognised in today's world that everyone should be fully aware of environmental issues and respond accordingly. A number of speakers have referred to the fact that we can no longer accept pollution of any sort through ignorance. Concern for our environment is very much centre stage and there is a genuine commitment to a cleaner and better environment by all concerned. As the previous speaker indicated, we inherited a polluted environment from earlier generations. However, we have identified the level of pollution in our environment and its effect on the ozone layer, on the air we breathe and on the water we drink. Now that we have identified the level of pollution we must consider measures to take to prevent further pollution.

Initially we need a positive attitude to the environment. That now exists. We also need a realistic approach based on a practical understanding of our environment. The action programme announced by the Government in 1990 is the first comprehensive programme adopted by any Government. The programme is very detailed in setting out Government objectives and strategy for the next ten years. It has also costed the necessary actions to be taken at £1 billion.

There are one or two points in the document on which I would like to touch particularly in relation to Dublin Bay, sewage discharges and the marine environment in general. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle as a member of Dublin City Council is familiar with the unacceptable situation in Dublin where over half the houses in the greater Dublin area are discharging untreated sewage into Dublin Bay. There is also a sludge ship which goes a couple of miles out in the bay to dump untreated sewage. Before the announcement of the action programme that problem was under continuous discussion in Dublin City Council. It was recognised that activities in the bay, including swimming and water sports, were being seriously curtailed by pollution. Indeed, the Bull Island beach in which I have a special interest did not achieve a blue flag award because of the level of pollution in the bay. Amenities which should be available to the people are being lost because of the huge volume of pollution we create and the sewage discharges into the bay. I am glad we have identified what we need to do and the costs that will be involved in achieving the necessary objectives.

One of the objectives in this document — it is now being achieved — was to bring an Environmental Protection Agency Bill before the House. However, we should not be under any false illusions that the establishment of this agency means that everything will be all right. We have made progress recently in relation to pollution. I am happy to say that the local authority of which I am a member have done trojan work in this area and funds were made available to them to address certain issues. However, the dumping of raw sewage into Dublin Bay is totally unacceptable, and little or nothing has been done in that area other than to identify and cost the problem.

At a recent meeting of one of the subcommittees of Dublin City Council we studied various reports submitted to the council. The reports covered a draft waste plan prepared for the city area, which included outside consultants. The plan was submitted to the Department of the Environment for approval. We have undertaken a programme of recycling and kerbside collection. We have involved firms willing to recycle anything from cans and plastics to glass. In relation to the Air Pollution Act, a report received by Dublin City Council states:

The quality of Dublin's air has improved dramatically in the past 12 months due to the introduction of the ban on sale of bituminous coals under the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) Regulations 1990.

The environmental health section through their air quality monitoring network monitored a number of locations throughout the city and the level of emissions to date has greatly improved since the introduction of that Act.

In relation to the Water Pollution Act the report indicated that there has been an improvement in minimising the effects of any type of pollution in drinking water. Samples from rivers and streams are being taken on a regular basis and industry is being monitored to ensure compliance with the licensing conditions.

Dublin Corporation have the necessary staff for monitoring and licensing controls with regard to air, water and so on. It is indicated in the Bill that the Environmental Protection Agency will take over these functions. Sections 29 to 31 refer to staffing from the local authority. Will the Minister, when replying to Second Stage or during Committee Stage, clarify whether the staff will be seconded from the local authority or whether some local authorities will be allowed to continue to licence? Part IV of the Bill refers to an integrated licensing system to replace the existing licensing system. This is a step in the right direction but if we do what is proposed in the Bill it seems that we will have the Environmental Protection Agency licensing in relation to air, water, noise and so on, but the local authority will continue to monitor and license with regard to planning applications.

In Dublin Corporation we already have a licensing authority to deal with all matters relating to the local authority. I would welcome it if the Minister would clarify whether in the Dublin area we will have the Environmental Protection Agency looking after air, water and noise and the local authority, Dublin Corporation, looking after all planning applications. I could see some difficulty with the day to day workings of such an arrangement. That is why I would like the Minister to clarify the situation with regard to an integrated licensing system and the planning situation in relation to planning applications received, etc.

I would like to know also if the Minister is fully satisfied with the marketing, sale and distribution of fuels regulations under the Air Pollution Act. Initial reports received by Dublin Corporation indicate that there has been a great improvement in the quality of our air. However, it is my understanding that there is concern at the quality of fuels imported and sold recently in the greater Dublin area. Some of these fuels have failed tests due to the very high level of sulphur in them. The local authorities are somewhat hamstrung in that they are carrying out the necessary procedures by testing the fuels, but when they find that the fuels are not up to standard they are left with only one alternative, to bring the offender through the District Court so that the appropriate fine can be imposed.

At the moment there is a strike in the District Court and we all know the chaos which has resulted from that procedure. In the normal course, by the time the case gets to the court the individual who may have had a yard full of high sulphur fuel has sold it and it is polluting our environment. Instead of this cumbersome District Court procedure under which the individual can retain his stock of unacceptable fuels, would the Minister consider giving powers to the authority to seize such fuels while awaiting the court decision? It is ridiculous that we cannot stop the sale of such unacceptable fuels continuing even though the framework is in place. The one answer to this problem is to give powers of seizure to the local authorities.

I would also like to refer to Dublin Corporation's role in the World Health Organisation and in committing ourselves to having a healthier city in the broadest sense. This initiative has now taken the form of developing a city health strategy in conjunction with the statutory health authority, the Eastern Health Board, and other bodies. To achieve this, new alliances and partnerships were formed, cutting across the sectoral boundaries of traditional policy making. I am pleased to say that we have made great progress in a number of areas, improving overall health and making Dublin a healthier city. It is important that the Minister would clarify how the Environmental Protection Agency will work in the context of the staffing of the existing project and the cutting of traditional policy making between the Department of Health, the Department of the Environment and other areas, such as the Department of Labour, with the Health and Welfare at Work Act, etc. What framework will be put in place to ensure that we will continue to have successful projects such as the healthy city project?

County boundaries, city boundaries, country boundaries, etc., do not matter in the context of the environment particularly when we talk of nuclear energy. In the recent past we experienced the effects of the fall-out from the Chernobyl incident in the Ukraine many thousands of miles away. I want to take this opportunity to refer to the activities of British Nuclear Fuels where they are continuing to concoct their poisonous cocktails behind closed doors. We are concerned at the activity of the nuclear industry in the UK. Whether we like it or not and regardless of national boundaries, the nuclear industry is affecting our environment. I am aware that the Minister for Energy has called for the closure of the Sellafield nuclear plant and has spoken on numerous occasions to his UK counterpart. However, if we look at the history of Sellafield, of Windscale, we must realise that all our talking and all the representations by various local authorities, has fallen on deaf ears. There has been no progress in removing the threat to Ireland of the nuclear industry in the UK. On the contrary, the nuclear industry in the UK are proposing to extend the Sellafield plant with the development of THORP. One of the reports I read indicated that two other countries are prepared to utilise the THORP development because they are not prepared to carry out the work in their own countries. One of those countries is Japan who have indicated that because of the possibility of sabotage they will be prepared to send their warships to escort their cargoes up and down the Irish Sea. Germany also indicated that they will be using the THORP development.

As I have indicated, we have experienced the side effects of the fall-out from an incident a few thousand miles away in the Ukraine in addition to the side effects of the discharges from the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. I firmly believe that the high incidence of child leukaemia on the east coast can be directly related to the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. Indeed, an interesting study carried out by a medical practitioner in Dundalk points to a high level of abnormalities among children born to women who were in a particular class in school and she directly relates this to discharges from Sellafield. It is recognised that Sellafield poses a continuous threat to our people and environment. I would urge therefore considering all the debate and discussion that has taken place between local authorities, in particular those on the east coast, and all the meetings which have taken place with our United Kingdom counterparts and our colleagues in the European Community, that whatever action needs to be taken should be taken. If we have to bring our United Kingdom counterparts to the European Court let us do so before we taste one of their poison cocktails, because if we do not we may not be around after such a disaster.

I wonder how effective the Environmental Protection Agency will be in protecting the environment and, if the Government are somewhat embarrassed or do not wish to bring our United Kingdom counterparts to the European Court, will the Environmental Protection Agency put first on their clár the measures they should take to ensure that there is no further unacceptable interference with our environment by the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. As I said, the only way forward is through the European Court and other procedures which may be available.

Another issue which concerns me is the question of funding. Part II of the Bill indicates that this agency will be funded by means of Exchequer grants. At present the Cabinet are discussing the Estimates and the budget for 1992. While I am sure the Minister would not like to make us privy to too much information on what is going on at the Cabinet table at present I would like to know if we have costed——

We would all like to know that. Will that come under the heading "pollution"?

I am sure we will be told soon enough. It looks as if it will not be good news. I would like to know if the environmental action programme has been costed, how much it will cost to run the agency, what funds will be allocated and if the agency will be up and running in 1992?

Section 21 of the Bill indicates that the model used was An Bord Pleanála but I would question whether that was the right model to use given that a number of individuals and authorities have expressed their concern about that body.

I would now like to turn to the question of presenting annual reports to this House. Because of the importance we attach to the environment I hope the Minister, when she comes to reply or on Committee Stage, will indicate if the reports will be laid before the House or be the subject of a special debate. I would also like her to indicate if all the information will be made available, because it is indicated in some parts of the Bill that certain information may be withheld. One can appreciate that it may be necessary to withhold information in the interests of national security but I would welcome some clarification.

Finally, it seems that the chief executive officer and the members of the board are being granted immunity. I do not believe this should be the case and I ask the Minister to explain why it is necessary to include this provision in this very important Bill. Overall, the Bill has to be welcomed because it concentrates solely on environmental protection. I would ask that the Bill be given the necessary teeth and that money be made available for the agency as soon as possible.

First, I would like to respond to Deputy Callely's important contribution to this debate. It is very encouraging to see a backbencher of one of the Government parties being somewhat critical of the Minister. That is an encouraging trend. I would commend him in particular for his remarks on Sellafield. I hope however he has better channels of communication with the Minister for Energy than I do, because I have been saying the same thing for a number of years. Unfortunately, it would appear he has not paid the slightest attention to me. I would appeal to Deputy Callely to use his good offices to have something done about Sellafield. As he said, the days of talking are over and it is now time to take action, legal action, against Britain and Sellafield. While this may be extraneous to the Bill I feel I have to make that point.

I would also like to refer to Deputy Cotter's peculiar contribution to the Bill. He damned it with faint praise. I would agree with his remarks however about the demise of An Foras Forbartha. That was an act of environmental vandalism of the highest order and I have never ceased deploring it. It is quite possible if An Foras Forbartha were still in place today the environment would be a much safer and cleaner place. However, even if that body were still in place, we would still need an environmental protection agency as their powers go far beyond those of An Foras Forbartha.

The greens and the public are completely disillusioned and frustrated with the current environmental protection authorities. This has become very apparent in recent years with the growing number of conflicts on environmental issues between individual citizens, communities and State authorities. A typical example was the Merrill Dow issue in east Cork over two years ago. This surely was a prime example of what should not be done and I hope this kind of situation will never again arise if we have an effective Environmental Protection Agency.

At the outset the Green Party — Comhaontas Glas — have stated that, in order to ensure public confidence in such an agency, a number of requirements must be assured. These are independence, freedom of information, adequate funding and the necessary powers to be effective. The Green Party communicated these essential requirements to the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney, prior to the drafting of this Bill. My party have examined the Bill, particularly in relation to the above requirements; we find it totally inadequate and we do not believe that the Bill will meet any of the four fundamental requirements.

In her speech the Minister of State appealed to all parties to take account of the urgency in putting this agency into place and we all echo that as I have constantly and repeatedly in this House deplored the delay in the introduction of this Bill. I hope the House will have the good sense to finish the debate on the Bill today, as I suggested this morning on the Order of Business. I also hope that nobody will obstruct it because it is very important to move to Committee Stage. However, while we want to get the Bill through the House quickly, I hope, adequate time will be made available on Committee Stage for the many amendments which I — and other parties — will be putting down.

The Bill is fundamentally flawed in that it provides for the issue of licences by the Environmental Protection Agency and, at the same time, provides that they are the appeals body. The Bill should provide that licences be issued by local authorities. However, in arriving at their decision, the local authorities should be bound to seek advice from the Environmental Protection Agency although, of course, the decision would be theirs.

The provisions in the Bill regarding appeals procedures are vital; the appeals procedure will have to be changed because appeals should not be to the Environmental Protection Agency but to internationally recognised experts selected from a panel, which would ensure complete independence in the appeals procedure. Furthermore, a very large number of provisions in the Bill depend on ministerial action without any time limit being placed on such action. For example, no fewer than 15 sections of the Bill will require ministerial orders and a further 21 sections will require ministerial regulations.

Although the Minister of State referred to pollution prevention in her opening speech, there is no evidence of this philosophy in the Bill. It appears that the Minister is much more concerned about trying to reduce significant levels of pollution, it is an end of pipe solution. The Green Party have continually stressed that environmental protection must be based on the principle of pollution prevention, not pollution control which, unfortunately, is clearly the underlying principle of the Bill. There is too much emphasis on regulation, licensing and control of pollution. It seems to accept that fact that, in a so-called developed economy, certain levels of pollution are inevitable. The Green Party do not accept this popular assumption and will not accept an Environmental Protection Agency whose basic role will be to determine the acceptable level of pollution. The Bill's commitment to pollution prevention at source needs to be unequivocally stated.

Deputy Dukes, in his contribution last week, unfairly attacked environmentalists for their opposition to the national toxic incinerator. He seems to be misguided in this regard. The Minister of State is quite willing to accept inevitable levels of pollution. I agree that there is a short term problem about the disposal of toxic waste but the building of a national incinerator would only encourage further production of this waste. The production of toxic waste must be phased out in as short a time as possible. This is the reality. Environmental protection must start at the very beginning of the production process and the Environmental Protection Agency must concentrate on eliminating the cause of pollution instead of concentrating on setting emission limits which is, as I said before, an end of pipe solution. This approach fails to tackle the root cause of pollution. It is just treating the symptoms and is not a cure.

The Bill fails to commit itself to what is internationally accepted as the only way to ensure sustainable economic development, pollution prevention at source. Therefore, I will be putting down amendments on Committee Stage to enshrine this principle in the Bill. As I have already said, freedom of information and accountability are a must. These important principles are clearly not contained in the Bill. For example, it does not provide public access to the inspector's report on an oral hearing on a licence. Furthermore, the whole area of confidentiality of information is quite unsatisfactory. For example, what will be the criteria for such confidentiality? If the Environmental Protection Agency agree to classify information will the grounds for this decision be open to review or ratification? We believe that in every such case the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency should go before a consultative committee to be ratified under the terms of the Environmental Protection Agency's criteria for confidentiality.

The Green Party believe that public access to information is a basic human right and that all information relating to environmental matters should be readily accessible to all. This, once again, highlights the urgent need for a freedom of information Act. This is something which the Green Party and the vast majority of the people would clearly welcome.

It appears that section 15 of the Bill removes the agency's legal accountability in the event of negligence on their part as a result of which people are injured and/or property is damaged. An injured party must have the right to sue following negligent planning decisions by public authorities which cause personal injury or financial loss. Although the Minister of State and her Department claim that this agency will be independent, we strongly disagree. The composition of the committee set up under section 21 deals with the appointment of the director general is totally unbalanced; three of their six members will be Government servants, the secretary of the Department of the Environment, the secretary to the Government and the managing director of the IDA. This committee, which will be responsible for supplying lists from which the Minister will appoint the director general, should be expanded to include representatives from consumers, agricultural interests, tourism, fishing, the Confederation of Irish Industry and — most importantly — environmental organisations. The very fact that the IDA are singled out for priority treatment in the Bill is a national disgrace bearing in mind that they are the body responsible for encouraging dirty industries to this country without any consideration for the environmental consequences. Indeed, the consequences of the IDA policy for industry and employment have been disastrous.

The process for selection of the advisory committee clearly highlights the total disregard for the principle of independence from Government. For instance, the Minister will decide which organisations are eligible to supply the lists from which five to seven members will be selected and the remaining members will be appointed by the Minister. The whole make-up of this advisory committee is clearly dependent on the opinion of the Minister of the day. The Green Party demand that the director general, the deputy director general and members of the advisory committee be required to publicly register a full disclosure of their financial interests.

The Green Party are extremely concerned that one of the most fundamental rights of our planning legislation, the right to appeal the issue of licences to an independent authority, has been removed. This Bill proposes that the Environmental Protection Agency will have not only the power to grant an integrated emission licence but to decide on any appeal against the licence. If only the Environmental Protection Agency can adjudicate on appeals against their own decisions, they will never win and keep the respect and confidence of the public in all their procedures.

The Green Party are also opposed to the best available technology not entailing excessive cost approach — BATNEEC — of this Bill. The strategy of best available technology is something on which we can all agree, but any hope this promises is immediately wiped out with the qualification of not entailing excessive cost. This is a valued judgment. What most environmentalists are asking is who will determine what is excessive cost and what criteria will be used to judge what is excessive. In determining what should be deemed excessive, we must also take into account the real economic cost of the social and physical impact on the environment, including the degredation of air and water quality, clean up costs, strain on health services, loss of amenities and the potential consequences for future generations. Economic costs must not be allowed outweigh environmental costs. Furthermore, it is time for other political parties to recognise that not every activity is necessary or useful and that a complete evaluation of our whole system of industrialism is long overdue.

I will now refer to the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Green Party would stress that a fundamental requirement for an effective agency is to give sufficient powers to allow them to carry out their job effectively. The proposed Environmental Protection Agency however clearly lack enforcement powers, particularly in relation to public and local authorities. For example, section 61, which provides power for the agency to direct the local authority, is rendered useless by the provision that the local authority can refuse on the grounds that they do not have the necessary funds to comply with the directive. If local authorities fail to carry out requests, there is little or nothing the Environmental Protection Agency can do about it. This is a serious flaw in the Bill, bearing in mind that local authorities are very often major polluters. The agency must be given sufficient powers to ensure that their decisions and directives are carried out, particularly those directed at public and local authorities.

Section 13 gives power to authorised persons to enter premises. It does not give them power to enter premises at any time — there is a qualification in the Bill which says "all reasonable times". This is yet another flaw. I suggest that except in the case of a private dwelling, the authorised person must have power to enter at all times. Otherwise any evidence relating to pollution offences could be destroyed before the so-called reasonable time has arrived.

I do not wish to dwell on all environmental problems. One could speak here all day about the many environmental problems this country is experiencing. However I would like to single out one instance, that is, the way we treat sewage. Our whole approach to sewage disposal needs to be urgently reassessed. Other Deputies have referred to this problem, and rightly so, because it is a very serious problem. Sewage should not be seen as something to be got rid of at all costs. It contains useful natural nutrients which could be put back on the land as fertiliser instead of being dumped in the sea. These nutrients are essential for our soil. It is now internationally accepted that the planet's level of these nutrients is alarmingly low. In the long term our land is being depleted of nutrients and agriculture, on which we all depend will eventually lose out.

The present system of sewage disposal deprives the land of its nutrients while at the same time polluting the sea. We should be planning to process our sewage through methane digestion systems. In China, for example, whole villages receive power and fields are fertilised at no cost by processing sewage in such systems. In this way they also have free heating and lighting. We should not waste vast amounts of taxpayers' money processing something that will be thrown away, dumped into our already heavily polluted seas where these valuable and scarce nutrients can never be recovered. Sewage can be a valuable source of energy and a fertiliser. The current approach to the dumping of sewage will destroy our environment.

However, before this system could come into effect many changes would be necessary because of the presence of industrial and household pollutants in sewage in our single pipe water system. The money, resources and political will directed towards bringing about such changes would eventually pay off in social, ecological, health and even financial terms. The current method of sewage disposal has detrimental consequences for our health, tourism, fishing, recreational facilities and agriculture.

Finally, the Minister claims that this Bill is a radical and progressive step forward, but unfortunately most environmentalists, including myself, cannot agree. The Minister has said that she is anxious to hear Deputies' views. If she has the courage of her convictions and is willing to take on board the views of concerned environmentalists, it could result in the setting up of a radical and progressive Environmental Protection Agency instead of what could turn out to be a PPA — a polluters protection agency.

All Deputies must welcome the Environmental Protection Agency Bill but as Mondale said to my namesake in the United States, where is the beef? What is the point in bringing in such a Bill if finance is not made available to protect our environment? I am reminded of the story of the farmyard helper who told the farmer that he had fed straw to the ducks. When the farmer asked if they were eating it, he said: "No, but the last time I was in the yard they were talking about it". That summarises this whole debate about environmental protection. If the Government do not see the need to provide adequate funds, local authorities in particular and, indeed, individuals, will not be able to play their part in eradicating existing pollution and making sure the environment is protected.

I do not think any Deputy could tell a different story from the one I am telling about the disposal of domestic waste at local authority level or the disposal of sewage. One of the big problems we have in Donegal is getting money from the Department of the Environment to carry out small and medium sized sewerage schemes and to instal proper sewerage systems and treatment plants. We get about one-tenth of the cost required. It is no credit to public representatives, be they Members of this House or of a local authority, to have to publicly admit that the greatest polluters in society are the local authorities and the semi-State agencies. All local authorities are guilty of tolerating sewerage systems that discharge into our rivers and lakes, from Dublin Corporation to Donegal County Council. There is no denying this. About four years ago a violent storm hit the north of the country and damaged pipes of the main sewerage system in Carndonagh which crossed an old railway bridge which was washed away in the storms. For the next three or four years sewage spilled into the Donagh River for all to see. The county council wanted to rectify the situation but did not get the money from the Department of the Environment to link up broken pipes. The Department of the Environment did no want to know, I doubt if it was the departmental officials but the Minister's office, who did not make the moneys available to Donegal County Council.

The constituency I have the honour to represent has two main loughs, Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle. I grew up in the town of Lifford and, like every young boy and girl in the town, swam in the River Foyle. We got pleasure in the summer evenings enjoying the clean water of the river. Today, one can scarcely walk ankle deep in it because it is so polluted. Sewage is being discharged into it from the town of Strabane and further up from Omagh, Castlederg and from the Finn Valley where the Mourne and the Finn join to make the Foyle. Indeed, even sewage from Derry city pollutes it. In Lough Swilly, where there is not the same concentration of pollution discharge, the waters are totally different. This does not have to be explained to the people of Donegal because they realise what has happened.

I am not indicting the generations which went before us. Deputy Callely said we had inherited pollution from earlier generations. That is true but the earlier generations did not know what pollution was. They were trying to improve their standard of living. We have known for the past 25 years what causes pollution but we have done nothing about it. If any generation stands indicted on the question of pollution, it is our generation because we keep talking about the problem but we do very little to correct it.

It is not so many years ago that dry toilets were the norm in rural Ireland. Indeed, it is not that many years ago that it was upmarket to have an inside toilet and one was really middle class if one had two inside toilets. If we look back we see that our great-grandparents and our grandparents in trying to improve their standard of living introduced a new sanitary system, the WC. They were located outside the house and the sewer pipe emptied into the nearest large drain in the backyard or the farm. That seemed to solve the problem of the dry toilets and they were, as it were, very modern. That system met the needs of people until we had what were called open septic tanks. The drains became so polluted that someone came up with the answer of discharging into the nearest river by joining up with other pipes. That was the beginning of sewerage systems in rural Ireland. People thought they had solved the problem, the waters would wash away the discharge, and the fish would eat the solids discharged into the water. It was not until an outbreak of poliomyelitis was traced to bathing waters into which sewage was discharged that we began to realise there was something wrong with discharging untreated sewage into our rivers and lakes. It was not our anxiety to solve the problem of pollution but a threat to health that brought us to this way of thinking.

While Deputy Callely talks about us inheriting a pollution problem we should give credit to our ancestors who were trying only to improve their standard of living and did not see that what they were doing was wrong. That is not the case today. The present generation know precisely what is happening and Governments are not playing their part in trying to eradicate pollution. A parade of politicians have gone to Sellafield to examine the discharges from the nuclear power plant there into the Irish Sea. Ministers spent hours on both British and Irish television telling the world, the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish about how wrong it was to be discharging nuclear waste into the Irish Sea. I have been told by a reliable authority that when the Irish Government got around to sending inspectors to examine the Irish Sea they found pollution but it was not the discharges from Sellafield that alarmed them but the amount of sewage discharged into the Irish Sea. That seemed to be a greater threat to the environment than the discharges from Sellafield.

We do not have much control over the discharges from Sellafield except to protest about it to the British Government, but we can control the discharge of sewage into the Irish Sea. From Whitehead in Antrim to Rosslare in Wexford, we are all guilty. Every authority on this side of the Irish Sea is guilty of polluting the Irish Sea. Not one has saidmea culpa but we play every political flute available and play the tunes that are nice to the ears of the Irish people and protest about Sellafield. It is total hyprocrisy for politicians to be condemning what is happening in Sellafield. I do not defend what is happening there; I think it is wrong but there is no point in singling out Sellafield and blaming the wrong reason for the pollution of the Irish Sea.

I hope the Minister, and the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment will take note of this. I am told that one cannot swim off some of the beaches around north and south Dublin which I used to frequent as a boy as it is not safe to be there any more. Again to refer back to the remarks made by Deputy Callely, if that is so then the indictment is not of the earlier generations but of this generation.

Modern industrial waste has become a major concern for everyone. Modern industrial waste finds its roots in coal and in oil. The world carried on without the use of coal or oil for many centuries; it is possibly only in the past two centuries that those elements have become major factors in the modernisation of the world. They have helped us to get to where we are now. There is a lot of good in the use of coal and in the use of oil. Coal was not a pollutant until railways began to develop, and oil followed shortly after. The amount of pollution that those two elements have caused is astronomical, and unless we come to terms with it we shall get nowhere. Sewerage we can deal with, but oil and coal and their by-products are a bigger challenge.

Before I go into that issue I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in rural Ireland septic tanks were the solution to sewage disposal where sewerage systems did not exist. In many ways septic tanks did solve a problem, but where in rural Ireland do you go now to find a water well that is not polluted? In the Donegal that I grew up in wells were virtually all around and we took pride in the fact that we had good, clear healthy, clean water. That is not the case now, the underground wells and the water streams have been polluted by septic tanks. I do not find fault with the people who put in septic tanks to solve their own domestic sewage disposal problems because they do only what society tells them to do, and they do it out of necessity because local authorities either do not provide serviced sites on which they can build their houses or do not provide sewerage systems in which they can dispose of their sewage waste.

Septic tanks are tolerable until they become so numerous that they become a nuisance. We have reached that stage. I wonder how long we can continue to proceed along the road of building a house in rural Ireland and servicing that house with a septic tank. How long can we continue that policy? I am not authoritative enough to decide one way or the other, but I have grave doubts about continuing that policy. Something will have to be done about it. But, then, what is the difference in the present climate of putting in septic tanks and linking up to a sewerage system that does not have a sewerage treatment plant but discharges into a local river or a lake? I come back to my introductory remark: "Where is the beef?" What is the point in bringing in an Environmental Protection Agency Bill to deal with pollution if local authorities are not to be given the money to combat the threat? All local authorities — and I have been part of one for 31 years — can easily identify the things that cause pollution in their areas. If they were given sufficient moneys, even without bringing in the new Environmental Protection Agency, they could tackle the problem and they could be very successful in dealing with it. If they do not get money, then the position is the same as expecting ducks to eat straw — they have not had it but they are still talking about it.

Chemical scientists can be right in their advice for dealing with toxic waste dispoal. Many of them are very articulate, very communicative, very knowledgable and very persuasive. I have listened to their arguments in relation to toxic waste disposal. At times I felt that I was convinced by the force of their arguments, and who am I, an untrained person, to challenge the professionalism of a chemical scientist who has devoted his life to his profession? I cannot debate publicly whether a chemical scientist is correct or incorrect. However I can look around for examples. I cannot help but think of Bhopal, Chernobyl, Sellafield or, indeed, a list of other places where scientists proved that they were right; proved to the local authorities that in regard to controlled environmental pollution that they were right; proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were right; convinced local authorities that they were right. It was not until the birds began to fall out of the sky in Bhopal that people started to realise there was something wrong. We know what happened then. We knew then that the scientists who were so persuasive in their arguments, so professional in their debate and so correct in their assessment were wrong.

I have to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt when dealing with toxic waste disposal, and even when I am convinced beyond all reasonable doubt I would still say: "Let us see what is going to happen". I am referring, of course, to the Du Pont proposal to construct a toxic waste incinerator at Maydown in Derry, which is only three miles across the Border from Donegal. The proposal is causing much alarm on the peninsula of Inishowen, particularly along the east coast of Inishowen, namely the area along Lough Foyle. For many months we read in the local papers of the protest being made by environmentalists and local people in County Derry about that development. Trying to be good neighbours, we felt that to an extent we did not have much control over the matter, that it was a matter between Du Pont and Mr. Needham, who is in charge of the environment in Northern Ireland. However, we were concerned about the possible environmental pollution of the air and of the whole of County Donegal, particularly east Donegal, being in direct contact with it.

I am not convinced because of the arguments I have just put forward that toxic waste should be brought to a central position to be disposed of. Like everything else it should be disposed of at source which means that one is diluting it to the greatest possible extent. For example, if sewage is disposed of at source then it is being disposed of in a diluted way, if the House follows what I am saying. When one begins to bring it into big systems, a major problem is created. One creates a major problem when one begins to bring toxic waste from Cork to be incinerated at Maydown.

Let us examine what will be the outcome of all of this. All Members of the House know the Government must find some method of disposing of toxic waste within the jurisdiction of the State. That is a responsibility we cannot avoid but how we do it is our business. I share the view that, when industrialists come to Ireland, or an existing industrialist who is generating toxic waste, they should have to convince the Department of the Environment through their planning application — if coming in anew — or convince the Department of the Environment, through their application to dispose of their toxic waste, to remain in business.

It is wrong in the extreme and there is no argument that can support the case that one part of Ireland should reap the benefits of the jobs and dump their waste in some other part of Ireland. That is unfair, no matter what part of Ireland we are talking about. It is particularly unfair to do so in an area where strife already exists, an area which has experienced sufficient trouble over the past 20 years, indeed if not over the past 400 years. Governments in the South should be endeavouring to win the goodwill of both communities in Northern Ireland. The damage to public relations this is doing north of the Border is almost as bad as the attacks the IRA are perpetrating on those communities.

I am asking the Government to pull back from the position of supporting the development of the toxic waste incinerator at Maydown. Both communities in Northern Ireland are totally opposed to it. All the people of County Donegal who are concerned are totally against it. I am against it, I will continue to be against it and I will do everything in my power to prevent it.

In talking about it I do not give a lot of credit to the Minister for the Environment for the manner in which he has dealt with this. In the early stages when we became aware, by accident, that Du Pont were proposing to develop a toxic waste incinerator, there were mixed opinions and views as to what was happening. Early opinions were to the effect that Du Pont would dispose of their own toxic waste. Most people would live with that, even though many would argue that much of it could be recycled, improved. However, all environmentalists would have a particular concern even about disposing of their own toxic waste.

When it became known that the Government of the Republic of Ireland were going to work in tandem with Du Pont, that was a different kettle of fish; that was when people in Donegal began to concern themselves, people in both communities north of the Border began to concern themselves, because this issue was much larger than had been realised. People began taking positions against it and rightly so. I would tolerate circumstances in which Du Pont would dispose of their own toxic waste, but I am totally against the development of an incinerator at Maydown. I hope that Government Deputies and councillors in County Donegal who are against it are listened to by the Government because there is a feeling abroad, which I share, that the Government did not know whether to close the door and put out the dog when told it was their responsibility — there is a more crude way of putting that but I will restrain myself from doing so — to dispose of toxic waste, when we could no longer export it to Britain to be incinerated or disposed of there.

Rumour has it — I suspect it is stronger than rumour although I have little evidence to support it — and Government Deputies tell me that the first proposal to site an incinerator in Cork was objected to bitterly by Deputies Wyse and Quill. When the Government heard about Du Pont's proposal, all of their Santa Clauses and Christmases came together. They took the view that here was the way around their problem; they did not have to construct a toxic incinerator in the Republic of Ireland; because Du Pont had come to their rescue and they could dump all their waste in County Derry, have it incinerated there and our front door will remain clean. If that is the reason this Government have decided to support the development of the incineration of toxic waste in Derry, it is a sick one. Surely that must be the lowest reason in political life. It debases everything I think political responsibility should be about.

We might look for a moment at a potentially frightening scenario. If constitutional parties and democratic debate in this House and Westminster cannot stop the building of an incinerator at Du Pont, has anyone thought out loud — as I have thought privately for a long time but it has now reached the stage at which I may have to say it publicly — about a very frightening thought indeed, that is, that the one group of people who can stop the building of an incinerator at Maydown are the Provisional IRA or the extreme Loyalists in Northern Ireland? If we reach that stage — I say this with hesitancy, not to alarm people but rather to put down a marker of where we could be going in all of this — the ordinary people of the north-west, on both sides of the Border will be told that constitutional politicians talk and debate but a capitalist society will take its own decision at the end of the day and, the IRA, will say they or the paramilitaries on the Loyalist side, have stopped the building of this incinerator and will be given credit for it. I want the Government here to seriously ponder on what I am saying, not to dismiss it as being merely a frightening remark on the part of Deputy Harte from north-east Donegal. I have had conversations privately with people who are very knowledgeable about what is going on. We all share the same fears about this potentially very frightening scenario.

It was a bad exercise on the part of the Minister for the Environment to slip up to Du Pont behind the backs of both communities and to go away as if he had gone there to play a game of golf, leaving strong suspicions in the minds of the people. He should have gone there publicly and let everyone know what he was doing. He has been behaving in a similar manner ever since. I suppose it is to his credit that he was gracious enough to meet last week a number of people who came to this House, having left Donegal at 5 a.m., to make their protest outside Dáil Éireann. He met them but he did not tell them anything. He or the Minister of State should have gone to Donegal to meet concerned people and to reassure them that this Government will not pollute the environment in the north west.

The Government cannot afford to alienate the communities north of the Border. We cannot afford it for many reasons, one of the most important of which is that we have contributed either by inaction or by wrong policies to what has happened in Northern Ireland. Politicians in the South, and to an extent the community or at least part of it in the South, cannot wash their hands and say they have not been responsible for anything that has happened in the North of Ireland, that the concentrated violence of the past 20 years and the hatred and violence which has existed for four centuries has nothing to do with them. We have contributed in some way. We cannot clean our feet on the people of the north-west by saying that we want to get rid of our toxic waste in the North of Ireland. If it is the view of this Government or of any political party, including my own, that they do not want to alienate people in this country who vote for them but that it is all right to locate a toxic facility in the North, then I will have to consider where I stand. I will not remain silent if anything is done to exacerbate the situation in the North. Here is an opportunity for the Government to tell Du Pont that although their facility would solve our toxic waste problems in the Republic it is not part of our programme and does not fit in with our way of thinking.

I have great respect for the Minister of State, whose career I have followed since she was appointed. She has been tackling problems in a serious way and I would ask her to state in her concluding speech that the Government will not be part of the development at Maydown. There is no point in the Government's remaining silent and waiting to see what will happen. That would be injurious to good community relations which we should cherish and value. I have argued for many years that any Government or political party who see the unity of Ireland as a cornerstone of their political philosophy cannot follow policies, no matter how tempting, which obstruct that objective or are not consistent with that point of view. With the knowledge I have gained over 20 years of violence in Northern Ireland and claiming that I did as much as most and more than many to try to resolve the problem, I am asking the Minister not to go down that road and to declare as soon as possible that we are not interested in this facility. For the reasons I have given, it is wrong in the extreme and I hope the Minister will take note of it.

The recycling of domestic waste is a matter to which local authority members have not given enough time. We are paying domestic refuse collectors thousands of pounds to collect waste, yet 85 per cent of what we are dumping could be recycled. I refer to glass, plastic, paper and cans. The community structure in rural Ireland is such that this is not an insoluble problem. There is no reason why every village and town could not have a skip for glass and plastic which could be collected by the local authorities. Tidy-town organisations would willingly co-operate in this task. We could pay domestic refuse collectors to collect waste paper once a month, telling people to separate it. I am told it could cost too much money but if we are talking about the eradication of pollution, then money does not seem to be the problem. I have given a lot of thought to it and I do not believe it would cost too much. The environmental committee of Donegal County Council accepted a proposal of mine that the entire council should constitute the environmental committee. We have met a few times and are beginning to look at ways of eradicating domestic waste by recycling. I am certain that shopkeepers would play their part. I am thinking in terms of shopping centres to which people may go once a week to purchase goods. If people were properly informed, I am sure they would separate waste which could be recycled from the rest of their garbage. I am also sure that shopping centres would accommodate local communities, in a good public relations exercise, by providing skips near their premises where shoppers could dispose of paper, plastic or glass which can be recycled. People have to organise themselves to do these things. I should like the Minister to consider this point.

I said earlier that local authorities and semi-State bodies are guilty of causing pollution. In this context, CIE have probably been more guilty than any other organisation in the State. How often have we been suffocated by the fumes from CIE buses and trucks while driving through Dublin city? It is an absolute disgrace. This problem did not suddenly happen last week or last month; it has been going on for years. I have reported this problem to many Ministers for the Environment and asked what they were doing about it. If the vehicles owned by private hauliers emitted the same amount of fumes as the vehicles owned by CIE they would be prosecuted by the Garda.

Does the Deputy really think so?

They should be.

There is little excuse for allowing private operators, to use vehicles which pollute the atmosphere and there is no excuse for allowing CIE to do it. The Minister for Tourism Transport and Communications has control over the buses used by CIE and there is no use sitting at a table talking about protection of the environment or the eradication of pollution if no action is taken in this regard. There seems to be something wrong with that kind of setup.

I welcome the Bill which is a step in the right direction. However, as I said at the outset, the Bill will not amount to much if no function is provided. It will be like the farm labourer feeding straw to ducks; they did not eat it but they kept talking about it. I am afraid that like many other well-intentioned Bills, that will be the pitfall of this Bill — we lauded their introduction and saw great merit in them but they took us nowhere.

My contribution on the Bill will be brief. While much of what I want to say will probably be a repetition of what has been said before, nevertheless things which need to be said cannot be said often enough. I should like to make my contribution as a member of a local authority. Local authorities have been to the forefront in controlling pollution and applying anti-pollution policies to ensure that we have clean water, clean air, etc. All of us who are members of local authorities totally agree that these measures have never been satisfactory.

I should also like to make my contribution as a farmer who lives in the country. Until this dog's life of politics impinged upon my life I used to be what I would call a moderately intensive farmer. These are the farmers who are blamed for causing damage to our environment. Generally speaking farmers are referred to as managers of the green environment we know in this country. This is true. While I agree that farmers do many things which damage the environment, equally an enormous number of things the Government do, particularly as they relate to agriculture and certain agricultural policies, contribute directly to damage of the environment. I will refer to these later.

In welcoming the Bill I want to say that Fine Gael were the first party to introduce an Environmental Protection Bill in this House. If I read it correctly, there is not an enormous amount of difference between the Bill introduced by us two years ago and the Bill introduced by the Minister last week. The only criticism one can make is that it is a pity our Bill was not accepted at that time because the Environmental Protection Agency would now be in place for two years and we would be able to see how it was working.

My next comments on the need for the Environmental Protection Agency and ensuring that it works have probably been made by all Deputies who have contributed to the debate so far. This agency will not be able to work unless it is properly funded, which, of course, is the great worry. If any county manager is asked what he thinks of the Environmental Protection Agency he will say that basically it is a good idea — some of them might not like it because they believe it will impinge on certain of their functions — but that it is all about funding. County managers and local authorities are asked to do many things to protect our environment but they do not have money to do this work.

When the Abattoirs Bill was introduced in 1987 I was the Opposition spokesperson on Agriculture in the Seanad. I remember saying to the Minister for Agriculture and Food that that Bill could not work because there was nothing in it which indicated that there could be funding and the proposals in it were really a laugh. I am sorry to have to say that the prophesy I and many other people made at that time turned out to be a reality — the Abattoirs Act is not working, it is a joke, purely and simply because funds were not provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food to make it work.

It is all very well to say in the explanatory memorandum to this Bill that the agency will have the following functions; control and regulation of scheduled activities likely to pose a major risk to environmental quality; general monitoring of environmental quality; provision of support, back-up and advisory services to public authorities and promotion and co-ordination of environmental research. These are all very laudable provisions which were needed long ago but they all take money. There is no use in talking about such matters unless funding is provided. It is as simple as that.

All of the provisions laid out in the Bill in relation to, for example, integrated pollution control, the role of the local authorities, etc. will take money. It appears that the local authorities will act — this is rather vague — as agents of the Environmental Protection Agency in enforcing and administering the regulations, rules and laws laid down. However, they will not be able to carry out this work without inspectors, proper instruments and proper technology. I hope I am not boring people by saying what many people have said before, that is it all has to do with money. The Minister spoke glowingly about the Bill and I have no doubt about her commitment in this respect. She has had an excellent reputation in this area since her time in the Seanad when she was one of the speakers on these matters. The Cabinet must provide adequate Exchequer funding. Perhaps, I will be allowed repeat one analogy of which I am aware — the Abattoirs Act. Please do not allow this legislation to become a laugh, like the Abattoirs Act, simply because its writ cannot move as no money has been provided. The Minister stated that some of the regulations and penalties this legislation reforms go back to the 19th century. That says something about our environmental legislation. The fines and penalties on the Statute Book for environmental offences were fixed in the 19th century.

I wish to refer to the point that local authorities are major polluters. One of the good things about this Bill is that the Environmental Protection Agency will have authority over the local authorities and will be able to bring them to book for pollution offences. The odd thing is that local authorities carry out their pollution function by their capital assets, that is, their sewerage systems, their water purification systems, their landfill operations, etc., but they are not funded for these activities by the Department of the Environment. It is one thing to say local authorities are responsible for polluting rivers and the seas — if they are maritime counties — but when these matters are raised at any council meeting the response from the manager, the county secretary or the county engineer is that there are discharges from Bally so-and-so's sewerage system into river so-and-so but they applied to the Department of the Environment five or seven years ago for funding to improve that particular sewerage system. Over and over again the answer has been that there is no money. We should not blame the local authorities for polluting our water courses, although, primarily, they are the people who are doing it, but rather we should blame the Department of the Environment because since 1977 local authorities have generated no capital from their own resources for putting in place equipment from their capital budget, which has to do with sewage discharges or sewage effluents or whatever.

In my County of Roscommon I know of no urban pollution centre serviced by a sewerage system that would have more than 3,500 people and hospitals discharging into those systems. Not one of them has the wherewithal to deal with the disposal of a major toxic substance. If somebody dumps a gallon of mercury down a toilet — and no sewerage system can deal with that — I assume it goes through the flow system and continues into the stream. If somebody uses highly poisonous substances, for example, cyanide or strychnine they can be dumped into a sewerage system. I am a member of the local authority and I am sure that our sewerage disposal system — and this is probably true of Dublin's sewerage disposal systems and of many major systems — could not deal with those substances except by letting them go through the filter beds — which cannot deal with them — and from there they flow to the nearest river or lake. Every sewerage system I know of in Ireland has a filtered outfall into a river or some water source. That is the reality.

Deputy Garland made a very good point, and I wish to deal with this area too. It is very difficult to separate the good by-products from the bad by-products to be found in sewage. Our sewerage systems, our sewerage disposals or out-falls, are full of nutrients that are very useful in agriculture. For example, they are very high in nitrogenous substances, phosphate and potassium. No attempt is made to extract these substances for commercial use although they have tremendous commercial value. Each year we spend millions of pounds importing phosphates from North Africa, we spend millions of pounds every year manufacturing our own nitrogens, ureas and so on using very high cost energy to precipitate nitrogenous substances for agriculture. Similarily, we import potassium which costs an enormous amount of money. That area has never been examined.

Our filtration systems remove solids, but all they do is improve the appearance or the colour of the water which flows on containing all these essential nutrients. We then have the enrichment of our rivers and lakes. As Senator Murphy said in the other House — I thought it was an amusing remark — what we get is not green land or green fields, for which Ireland is famous — but green rivers and green lakes because they are enriched with these substances. That is what causes major fish kills etc. Removing these substances from what we dump into our rivers, lakes and seas necessitates funding. There is no point in Ministers making regulations and putting them before this House if these regulations have no teeth. It is as simple as that. The one piece of advice the Minister got during this debate has been the need to provide adequate funding. This Bill, for all its sections, sounds well but will not work unless it is funded.

I talked earlier about agriculture, the fact that I live on a farm and am, to some extent, a farmer. I am very conscious that agriculture has been damaging to our environment — that is a phenomenon of the last 20 years or more — and this coincides with the advent of silage as the major forage crop for farmers and the more intensive use of fertilisers and so on. There is no doubt even with the weatherproof means of harvesting forage like grass and our dependence on hay, especially in our moist or oceanic climate it is not easy to get the dry matter just right to be saved. Therefore, it was obvious that there would be a move towards silage.

In Ireland we have had this traditional system of ensiling grass in clamps or in open fields. Nowadays there is little clamping — to use the farmers' term — of silage in open spaces in fields. Most of it is clamped on concrete aprons and covered and sealed with plastic sheeting. The major problem about that system of ensiling is the run off of effluent. Silage effluent is one of the major causes of pollution. I do not know if my figures are correct, but I think that one part of pure silage effluent can pollute something like 14,000 similar volume parts of clean water. That gives some idea of how damaging silage pollution is.

In recent years because methods of ensiling grass in sealed packs — or as farmers call it, baled silage — are almost hermetically sealed in plastic, and also because of the ensiling process, the matter itself is much drier than under the old system. It is better that it should be drier for this system. That means, of course, that many of the juices of the grass are no longer present. There has been a major move to this system and it is rather expensive. We still grant-aid the putting in place of concrete aprons for silage. I know that under the control of pollution regulations, things have improved but when one is living in an area where there is heavy rainfall no matter what capacity a farmer has for holding farmyard waste, particularly silage, he cannot cope with two or three inches of rain if a small fraction of it gets into his storage capacity.

It is ironic that the Department grant-aid that system while they do not make any move towards assisting the much more environment-friendly use of silage-making in round bales. Grant-aid of that system would eliminate almost overnight, 80 per cent of the silage effluent damage. It shows how far behind is the thinking in the Departments. We seem to come in, about a decade behind new developments. We may have to wait five years for the Department of Agriculture and Food to decide to modify their grant assistance, if it is still there. I understand it is funded by the EC Structural Funds and not by the price guarantee side of the Common Agricultural Policy which grant-aids farmers who move towards more environmentally friendly silage making and storage.

There has been a major increase in the use of fertilisers since we became members of the EC. Under the old arrangements the Department of Agriculture and Food monitored fertiliser needs of farmers and gave a free soil analysis service. This was done for a number of reasons. The Department could tell a farmer how deficient or how efficient his farm was in terms of fertiliser use. That service no longer exists and there is a major problem especially for those involved in intensive farming. Many farmers are using fertilisers they should not use. There is an enormous over-use of phosphates and, perhaps an under-use of other nutrients. Farmers do not know that they may be using too much phosphates which is totally uneconomic and is also causing environmental damage. When the soil does not absorb phosphates it runs off into the nearest water course and into the water system. All we get is the enrichment of river beds and lakes with the consequent fish kills and green lakes instead of green land.

Another matter we should look at is the uncontrolled proliferation of forestry. We need more forests but even after major advances in recent years, we have increased our percentage of total acreage of land under forestry by perhaps 1½ per cent. We are still behind the rest of Europe and the world in terms of afforestation. Forestry is permitted close to rivers. In the west of Ireland, in particular, there is a great amount of poor land in river basins. That is natural because there is a clear relationship between excessive wetness and poor quality land. In recent years farmers have sold off such land to private companies and the State company for afforestation. The banks of many major rivers are totally afforested and this is not good. While forestry is good for the environment generally, intensive tree growing in the immediate vicinity of rivers is not good because it changes acidity levels in the water and the land and this can be very damaging. Our policy is aimed at encouraging afforestation but this aspect of that development has not been looked at. If one is unlucky enough to have just a house site, one can find that land is afforested up to within a few metres of the site. If a forest goes on fire the buildings adjacent to it can go on fire also. There are not any regulations or laws, as far as I am aware, governing such planting. We should look at the whole area of afforestation, the proximity of blanket forestry to our waterways and the environmental damage it can do. I live in a country area and I agree afforestation can have a very beautifying effect but we should look at the type of trees we plant. I hope the Environmental Protection Agency when established will do so.

I should like to refer, as some other Deputies did, to land fill sites. The Minister in her speech, referred to sections 58 to 60 in relation to dumping, landfill sites and so on with particular reference to local authorities. The Minister said that the agency will fix criteria for the management of local authority sewage treatment plants and landfill sites and will have a general supervisory role in relation to local authority obligations for the quality of drinking water. It was only local authorities that the Minister mentioned in relation to landfill sites. Other people are interested in landfilling nowadays. The countryside is covered with old quarries and depressions and many of them could be turned into good land for building if they were landfilled. I do not know whether landfilling is controlled. Sites are being filled with all types of substances by private companies. If we are to control local authorities at landfill sites the regulations governing them should be extended to private companies in the business of landfill. It is a growing business and it would be a great pity if regulations under this legislation did not reach out to private enterprise and cover offences they may commit.

On Committee Stage I would like to talk to the Minister about the Director General and the appointment of the other directors. It is not appropriate to ask questions about these things at this stage, but I am interested in the technicalities of their appointment, their qualifications and so on. I will come back to things like that on Committee Stage.

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill. I have no reservations about its general principle or its general thrust. We badly need it. Countries all over the world, like the Federal Republic of Germany which the Minister mentioned, and that most federal country of all, the USA where States have the greatest fondness for what they call their popular sovereignty and control themselves as far as they possibly can, have a federal protection environmental agency which is quite strong. This only proves the point being made by many people that this problem has a global nature. People have talked about the effects of Sellafield upon us here. Indeed at certain times of the year substances are carried to us in winds from Europe that are damaging and that one can easily see. This is a major global problem and to solve it we must work in co-ordination with all our partners.

One is glad that there is an enlightened approach to the environmental problem in most of the countries that form the land mass which borders us. We do not have anything that near us on the western side. Certainly on the eastern side we have the European countries and we are lucky that they take an enlightened approach to this whole problem of protection of the environment.

There are, of course, appalling problems in Eastern Europe which have been revealed as a result of political changes that have taken place there. That is all part of our problem, but we make a good contribution towards the solution to the problem globaly by setting a good example ourselves. On that point of good example, certainly we are giving good example by words but there must be action funded by money so that people can see that what we are doing sets a good example not just for this island but for the world.

Deputy Mac Giolla is indicating. The Chair indicated that Deputy Foxe would be called but he has not offered.

I gave way to Deputy Connor. Deputy Harte spoke before him and it was my turn to speak but I gave way to Deputy Connor.

I would like to agree that that is the case.

The Chair decides who speaks.

I would like to help the Chair.

The position is that we talked about the understanding that exists. Fine Gael were entitled to two speakers and then a speaker from the Opposition party would be called. Deputy Pat Rabbitte has already spoken. Ordinarily then, we could call some other member of the Opposition after the two Fine Gael speakers. Deputy Harte spoke. Deputy Connor would have been entitled to speak after Deputy Harte in so far as Fine Gael can have two speakers. That is the understanding. However, Deputy Foxe is not offering so in those circumstances I am happy to call Deputy Mac Giolla.

Thank you very much. I did give way to Deputy Connor but I want to thank Deputy Foxe as well for not offering.

First, I want to say, as all other Deputies have said, how much I welcome the Bill. All the major points have been made at this stage; it has been quite a long Second Stage debate. I want to emphasise again the two vital elements of the agency. These are its independence and adequate resources. If it has those I am sure it can be very effective for our environment and a guide to us all.

There are a few things that I would like to draw attention to — the coal ban, the effect on the environment and what has happened over the last couple of years. The Ballyfermot area in my constituency was particularly affected and was twice as bad as any other area when coal smoke was exceeding all limits. The Minister at the time saw that and dealt with Ballyfermot first. Smoke control zones were established there, most of which got grants for conversion to alternative fuels. The Ballyfermot area is the only area that has been dealt with under the terms of the Air Pollution Act, 1987. All the procedures as laid down in the Act were carried out in each of the four areas and the result is that Ballyfermot in Dublin is the only area where one can be prosecuted for making smoke. If one lights leaves in one's back garden or makes smoke of any kind in Ballyfermot one can be fined various sums under the Air Pollution Act. One can make as much smoke as one likes in any other part of the city of Dublin and it is no crime; one cannot be prosecuted under the Air Pollution Act because the procedures have not been adopted. The Minister banned the sale of coal but the burning of coal or any other fuel which makes smoke, the burning of tyres, the burning of plastic, the burning of old boots or the burning of anything that one wishes, some of which can make even more smoke than bituminous coal is not banned. We said at the time of the banning of coal that it was unfortunate that when the Minister, Deputy Flynn, announced his plan to prohibit the sale of bituminous coal he also announced the scrapping of the system of grants which had previously been available in certain smokeless zones to assist people to transfer to other systems. Nobody has any objection to the banning of bituminous coal. The scrapping of the grants was the decision to which we took great exception. The whole system of easing the burden on people was abandoned.

From the point of view of smoke, the banning of coal has been most effective and that is to be admired. However, I have had many representations made to me about the cost of fuel and the difficulty of heating homes over the past winter. The Minister of State, Deputy Harney, has said that her action in banning coal has saved 250 or 280 lives. She had a particular figure but I am not sure what it was. I do not know where she got the figure. She presented no medical back-up to prove that the figure was correct.

A review was to take place during the summer of the operation of all aspects of the Dublin coal ban. When I asked the Minister for the Environment last week if the review had taken place and if he would outline the form the review took, I was told that the review in question was undertaken as an internal one and involved consultation with the Departments of Industry and Commerce, Social Welfare and Energy as well as local authorities, Eolas etc. That review found the ban on coal had generally been a major success and had brought Dublin's air quality into compliance with national and EC standards relating to smoke and that some improved arrangements for implementing the ban had been identified and put into effect. These include arrangements for the speedier preparation of prosecutions and action in regard to safety fuels. I found that reply most disappointing. That was supposed to be a review of the operation of all aspects of the ban on coal but it appears it reviewed the ban in relation to the reduction in smoke levels only. There was no review of the effect the ban had on the poorer people in the population who had great difficulty meeting the cost of the dearer fuel — bituminous coal was the cheapest solid fuel. The £3 grant, which was available only to a certain number of people, was insufficient to meet the extra cost involved in heating their homes.

Those people were not able to convert to any other fuel; their only option to bituminous coal was coalite or some other smokeless fuel which had been introduced to the market but they were much more expensive. Even though further smokeless fuels will be introduced this winter, they are all dear, are sold in small bags and give out less heat. While the heat in the fireplace and the chimney is more intense they do not give out as much heat. Surely someone should visit the people concerned, many of whom have only one fireplace, their only source of heat. They sit in front of this at night as all the other rooms are cold. The least that they expect is that the fire will give out heat but what they have found is that they are colder even though they are spending more money.

That does not show up in the review nor is there any indication of what effect this lack of heat had last winter in relation to flu and hypothermia or if anybody died as a result. The Minister should pay close attention to this matter this winter. I will not mention all the problems caused by the intense heat produced by petro-cokes, which were not banned by the Minister, but they included the breaking up of grates. I understand that they have now been banned by the Minister but I am not aware of what effect the ban has had.

What I am talking about here is the effect the total ban on coal has had on the ordinary person. It is great for the environment and everybody is delighted but who is paying? The answer is certainly not the Minister for the Environment or the Minister for Finance. It was the Minister for Finance who was behind the ban because he argued that we could not continue to pay this level of grant, so we had to ban coal. Naturally the Minister got great praise and made the most of it but, as we said at the time, the level of grants which were made available to change over to alternative fuels should be maintained.

Gas is no longer an option for anybody. People in jobs with relatively low middle class incomes cannot afford to changeover to gas because the Gas Company are charging £2,000 to connect a household. They are by-passing local authority estates and indeed some private estates where people with relatively low incomes live and are going for the big time. They are going where most money and profits are to be made. They are not acting in the public interest or as a public service.

I drew the attention of the Minister for Energy to the fact that the Gas Company had by-passed a particular estate, Arthur Griffith Park, near Lucan, in connecting a private housing estate and he promised to take the matter up. He did and as a result the Gas Company connected Arthur Griffith Park. However they had already by-passed the north Clondalkin area and not one person living there was offered gas. I would ask the Minister to look at this matter not that it will do much good because without grants people will not be able to afford to change over to natural gas. I say, again, that the ban on bituminous coal will not be effective, that its effect will decrease rather than increase over the years unless an alternative system is feasible and grants are made available.

I would like to refer briefly to environmental impact studies which are now required. I hope the new agency will oversee these studies. Mr. Jeremy Waites of Earthwatch has already drawn attention to the fact that the standards laid down for the environmental impact study are the minimum required by the EC Directive. In practically all cases it is the developer who commissions the environmental impact study. Whoever commissions a study will get the type of study that they want and pay for. Obviously, when an environmental impact study is commissioned by a developer it will be biased in favour of the developer. This appears to be the trend at present. They do not address questions such as what damage would be caused if there was an accident and so on. That is not a feature and it certainly was not a feature of the environmental impact study carried out at Whiddy. The question of a spillage did not appear to be an issue to be addressed. I would ask the new agency to pay attention to individual environmental impact studies to see to what extent they are biased in favour of developers and to lay down guidelines of a much higher standard than the ones which exist at present.

Many speakers have referred to river pollution. In many cases farmers are blamed and held responsible for fish kills in various rivers. The two major fish kills this year however were the direct result of the discharge of industrial effluent. It is obvious, however, given the number of streams and rivers, farms will present us with difficulties and will have to be continually watched. I was delighted to hear Deputy Connor say — it was only this summer that I discovered this — that a new technology is used in the making of silage. One can now bale silage and wrap it in plastic. If made in this way it is a far better feedingstuff for the animal than silage from which the nutrient is flowing. Silage effluent is the nutrients going out of the grass and it is deadly to fish although it is very good for animals. There would be much less effluent if the new technology was used.

Deputy Connor asked whether the Department of Agriculture and Food are still giving grants for the old silage pits which are out of date. I presume that the Department are still giving those grants instead of giving them to people baling in the modern fashion. The Department should realise that the new technology could be the solution to many problems; the Environmental Protection Agency should also look into the matter and keep in touch with the Department of Agriculture and Food to see what can be done in relation to changing the whole grants system and in trying to change the technology used by farmers in the development of silage. There is no point in giving grants for an outdated system which is causing problems to farmers and polluting our rivers when a more modern system exists.

In the Dublin area we have a really marvellous environment for a city, from Dublin Bay to the mountains, Bull Island, Phoenix Park, the River Liffey through the centre of the city and two canals. Much has already been said about effluents, Dublin Bay and Bull Island. Therefore, I will confine myself to talking about the River Liffey, a marvellous asset which is not fully used, developed or understood. Dublin County Council succeeded in getting the very first special amenity area order established and passed by the Minister. Perhaps Donegal got a similar order but, as far as I know, this is the first special amenity order from Lucan to Knockmaroon Hill in the county area. It was passed and signed by the Minister about two years ago but, of course, that was the end of it. A management plan has not been produced and if none is produced within five years, the whole project dies. It is very important that such a management plan is produced and the Minister for the Environment should look into the matter immediately to ensure that at least a beginning is made on a management plan for the county area.

I have asked Dublin Corporation to prepare a similar plan for the area from Chapelizod to Islandbridge, an area which is within the city boundaries. It is a marvellous stretch of river, right up to the famous and ancient Islandbridge weir, one of the finest salmon fishing spots in the country in which, in January, the first salmon of the year is caught. I do not know whether the salmon is caught at Islandbridge or whether it is conveniently brought there but it used to be caught there quite frequently and various hotels are willing to pay £500 or £600 for it. It is a famous fishing ground and it is a marvellous sight to see the waters flowing over the huge weir and the salmon jumping over it, a couple of miles down the river from O'Connell Bridge. However, the area is under very serious threat because a man wants to build a 90-bedroom hotel just in front of the salmon weir, where the fishermen take up their positions. Planning permission has been sought for apartments on the other side of Islandbridge so the whole area is under threat. There is no management plan, no special amenity area order, nothing to protect the Liffey from Chapelizod right into Islandbridge for the citizens of Dublin. It will be left to developers to do what they wish in that magnificent spot.

I do not know whether the Environmental Protection Agency will merely protect what is already there. Will they be reacting or will they travel round to see what needs to be done to protect areas in future? I hope they will have the vision to do this and not just react to events. I certainly hope that they will look at the River Liffey from Islandbridge to Chapelizod; indeed the village of Chapelizod is under stress; it is a magnificent, untouched and unspoiled village although it is decaying and should be protected. I succeeded in getting a conservation order put on it from the corporation but I discovered a couple of years later that the order meant nothing. Although some houses have been knocked, nevertheless the village is as it was at the turn of the century or earlier when Joyce lived there with his father. The same houses and shops are still there and it should be preserved and protected.

I wish to deal with two more points. One is the question of roads in relation to the environment and again I am dealing with my own constituency. We were told that the ring road around the city would be a marvellous way of protecting the city from traffic, that one could go round the city from Shankill to the airport and on to Belfast. We were also told it would facilitate people travelling on the Naas Road. However, there is now a problem in the area because a man wants to build a massive shopping centre on 180 acres right beside the ring road and the Galway road, just at the junction between them. We are told that people could come from Bray or Shankill on the south side and from Swords on the northside and be in the centre in ten to 15 minutes. It is a very controversial issue.

Will the Minister say what effect this project would have on the ring road? After all, the ring road, which was built at enormous expense was supposed to be a Euro road from Rosslare to Larne. We received EC money to carry out the work on that road. It is a Euro road and it appears on Euro maps. If this plan is approved this area will be packed with thousands of cars jamming up the famous ring road that was built at great expense to divert the heavy trucks from the city centre. There has been much controversy about that shopping centre and whether it will affect the Blanchardstown and Ronanstown town centres and even the shops in the city of Dublin, but I have heard nobody refer to the effect it will have on this road which cost an enormous sum of money. One wonders where the money came from to build such a road. The question arises as to whether the road will be useless if approval is given for that shopping centre. Does anybody in the roads section of the Department of the Environment even think about that or are they leaving the matter to the planning section?

I do not know whether that matter has anything to do with the Environmental Protection Agency but if we want to protect the environment an enormous shopping centre such as that proposed should not be built in such a way as to obstruct a road which was built to take traffic from the city of Dublin. Will the Minister allow this? She should have a say in the matter and should not leave it to the planners. She should demand that the road be kept clear. The Minister should consider the effects of this proposed plan, a decision on which will be made in the next couple of months, on the environment of the city of Dublin.

Finally, I want to refer to the famous Temple Bar area which has been developed magnificently and we hope its development will continue. A Bill was passed in the last session setting up the Temple Bar Developments Limited and Temple Bar Properties Limited with the purpose of developing this area. It was proposed that these companies purchase the buildings from CIE and Dublin Corporation, take total control over the whole area and develop it. What concerns me is what people mean when they talk about development. When CIE took over this area instead of closing down all the buildings and allowing them to decay — the normal course taken by property developers is to remove the roofs so that the houses fall down — their property manager, whose name escapes me but it deserves to be put up in lights, while awaiting sanction for the plan decided to lease the buildings at low rents. Thus the whole Temple Bar area grew. People with all sorts of ideas began to move into the area and set up small shops and industries. They made the area what it is today. It is now being referred to as Dublin's left bank. It is a marvellous place and it is said that everyone wants to be in Temple Bar. The area developed due to the policies of CIE.

When the companies who have been set up take over this area what will they do with it? Will they redevelop it and then increase rents? Will they change the whole purpose behind development of the area which was to encourage new and exciting industries there? That concerns me because if the proper attitude is not taken to the development of the Temple Bar area it may well be destroyed. It will become a museum with houses restored to their pristine glory rather than a place of life and activity. If this happens people may not be able to afford the rents and the buildings will only be used as weekend or town houses. The development of the Temple Bar area is a marvellous idea but I put down the marker that if it becomes an area of high rents the whole purpose behind the development will be lost.

I welcome the Bill. The importance of it is that it will give some order to protecting the environment. For too long our environment was considered in anad hoc way. It was left to local authorities to protect the environment but because they had a myriad of other duties to perform, the environment did not rank very high on their list of priorities. It is important that we have an Environmental Protection Agency and that their function includes development as well as protection. They should not be a negative body but a progressive one which will come up with ideas for local authorities and force them to get things done in a co-ordinated way.

Deputy Mac Giolla referred to the River Liffey. Dubliners consider the River Liffey as flowing from Chapelizod into the city, but that is not the case. It is a major water course. There must be consistency as regards the maintenance of that river. One local authority may do their job properly while another may not. The actions of one authority may negate the actions of another. In the UK there is a rivers authority. I hope the Environmental Protection Agency will act as such an authority, co-ordinating the flow of rivers throughout the country. Rivers are a tremendous amenity when they are in good condition. They give enormous pleasure by way of fishing, boating and, indeed, swimming. However, some rivers today are so polluted that fish cannot survive in them and people cannot use them as an amenity. That is a pity because our rivers should be there for the people.

The same applies to the sea. As a Dublin Deputy I will refer to Dublin Bay which has become a bit of a joke. I swim there most days throughout the year and people express amazement that I swim in "that cesspool" as it is called, and for good reason. Not very long ago when going for a swim I saw a person taking samples. I approached the person and inquired as to the result of their findings. He said that one side was alive with salmonella and there was also poliomyelitis in the water. I am not being emotive. I am giving an account of what the person doing the tests said to me. He told me that the other side was not as bad, but it was unfit. I asked him if he would swim in it and he answered: "definitely not". When I told him that I swam in it, all he could say was that I had probably built up an immunity. That is an indication of how bad things are in Dublin Bay. I see theShamrock, the boat that brings out the solid effluent every day or every other day to dump the gunge in Dublin Bay. The local authority, who are supposed to be the protector of the environment, are doing this. This new agency is charged with supervising the local authorities. It is time we took ourselves seriously, Dublin is a major city. We have a beautiful bay and we should protect it.

Let us assume that the Environmental Protection Agency test the water and then tell the local authority that they must put a proper sewage treatment plant in place, the local authority can plead poverty, and God knows local authorities always seem to be pleading poverty these days and that they have not got a bob to do this or that. It has become a way of life. However, they would not have the money for a major treatment works and the Department should make the money available in order to eradicate this problem. The environmental agency can do nothing when the local authority come up with a reason for not carrying out the works. My colleague, Deputy Connor, dwelt on the lack of finance. I know that finance is scarce but I am not going to make a play about finance. Nevertheless, if we are making laws, we should ensure that the laws can be enforced. This House should not be enacting mere window-dressing legislation. If we are not going to implement the law, we make a joke of it. Only yesterday did I see the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Bill but unless we provide adequate resources and employ more dog wardens, we are only paying lip service to the problem of dogs in Dublin and elsewhere.

I am fully in favour of the thinking behind this Environment Protection Agency Bill but I would be critical if the agency could not operate in the way they would want to. I fully agree that they should be an independent agency and I hope they are fortunate enough to attract the right kind of personnel. I notice that it is proposed that the director will have a seven-year tenure. I think that is a bit too long but it is probably along the lines of the TLAC system within the Civil Service where secretaries are appointed for a seven-year period. However in the Civil Service the people have come through the system and you have a very good knowledge of the person who will be picked. However, if the person chosen as director proves unsuitable after a while he is going to be in the job for a long time. I think he should be employed for a period of three to five years and that he should be highly remunerated in order to attract the right kind of person to do the job we want done and to come up with the ideas that a new agency will need. Board members are being appointed to the agency for a period of five years and I think the director should have a similar tenure. It is important that a comprehensive annual report should be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Even though they are an independent agency, they are being funded by the State and in my view have an obligation to make whatever reports are produced available to the Oireachtas.

There is a great deal of talk today about industrial waste and how we should dispose of it. By and large most industries are responsible, as they should be, but if not they should be brought to book. What worries me is the lack of a facility to dispose of toxic waste. I know that Deputy Harte referred to this problem earlier. The major problem for him is that the proposed facility will be located at his end of the country and that is bad news. However, it will be bad news no matter where it is located. I am not making a definitive judgment on whether we should or should not have a facility to dispose of toxic waste but I hope this agency will make their recommendation on it quickly. If we do not have a unit to dispose of toxic waste, what happens to it and especially to the small amounts of toxic waste which can be flushed away or buried but create major problems?

It is all right to say that we have laws against pollution but we all now that if we do not provide the necessary facilities to deal with waste disposal the cowboys will act illegally. It is easier also to enforce the law when you have a remedy to deal with the problem. I think there is a need for a facility but I will not adjudicate on where it should be located. Studies will have to be carried out and the matter will have to be discussed with the public both North and South in order to come to some arrangement before the decisions is taken. The decision should not be taken on the basis that some terrorist units might threaten to do something, because we as domocrats cannot operate like this. We will make a decision on its merits and we will not have any fear of reprisals from gangsters who operate along the Border. I make this point because it was mentioned earlier and I want to put on record that we do not make decisions on the basis of having a gun to our heads but on the basis that the matter has been properly thought out after a process of consultation. That is the only way we can do business. I am not ruling on the rights or wrongs but I will leave that to the people with the expertise to do that. I am merely raising the issue of the need to have such a facility somewhere in the country in that we can deal with the problem of toxic waste. It will not go away. We cannot close our eyes to these issues and just hope things will work out. Parliament, the Department of the Environment and this agency will have to consider the matter in a responsible way and make hard decisions. Hard decision may have to be taken, but take them we should if they are necessary.

One thing in which the agency could play a major role is education. One of the pleasing features of today is that young people are very much more aware of their environment than my generation, or even those younger than me. It is very encouraging to note that young people and school-going children are now much more responsible and very conscious of their surroundings and the way in which they should be preserved. That must be an ongoing attitude and the agency must take on a proper educational plank to ensure encouragement and outward flow of information. The agency must not be just about imposing fines of £10,000 or £100,000 or penalties such as three months in jail. There should be a carrot, there should be encouragement. If people have problems dealing with a particular kind of waste, they should be able to consult their local authority or the agency to seek help, and, in my view, such help should be forthcoming. We should encourage people to come forward to seek help when they have problems rather than to get rid of their problem in an illegal way by dumping refuse. That is the whole thrust of the Bill.

In my view the agency will work only if it has the legislative teeth to take action and force other people to do what is necessary to protect the environment. I do not think the agency has been provided with enough power but the Minister has made it quite clear that she is open to amendments and changes that will improve the Bill. The Minister has adopted the right attitude to take for legislation like this. I remember a planning Bill coming through the House when I was a Government backbencher. Everybody was encouraged to put forward amendments — I put forward several myself — to make that legislation worth while.

This Bill is not political legislation, it is legislation that is necessary and important for the good of all and the good of our country. We must consider the Bill only from the point of view of trying to improve it, trying to make it stronger and better and trying to give the Agency as much authority as we would want to give any agency. Often an agency can be given too much authority in the sense that it does not consider itself answerable to anybody. I suppose the weakness in making agencies independent is that they tend to become so independent that it is very hard to get at them. However, for all that, independence is a good thing.

The fact that an independent group like this agency is being set up is to be welcomed, provided we get the right kind of people and we will only get the right kind of people if they are paid well. In the mercenary world of today, there is not the same great public service attitude that existed years ago. We will have to pay the going rate, whatever that is, to attract the right people. I hope the agency will be innovative and full of new ideas.

The agency will take responsibility for noise control. One of the real problems in our society today is noise. It is very hard to do anything about noise. Particularly in the cities, we come across constituents who complain about the level of noise and it is nearly impossible to get anything done about that. The measures in the area of noise pollution have to be tightened to improve the environment.

It will also deal with transport emissions. Only yesterday I was behind a bus which gave out a huge belch of diesel smoke. In my view, that bus should be taken off the road immediately. Once emissions exceed a certain level owners should be liable to pay a penalty. How will this be dealt with? There must be some way to deal with this.

On much the same track, there are too many big trucks travelling through our cities, I favour, and have always favoured, the new road structures; I am not a new disciple. The road structures, particularly in the Dublin area, will be finished when the eastern by-pass is completed, and they will not impinge on the environment in certain respects. Heavy vehicles should be banned, or if they have to come into a city, they should have to arrive before 7 a.m. so that they would not damage the environment within the city. A city will survive only if a good environment is maintained. All heavy transport should be kept out of cities for environmental purposes. That can be done only with the ring-road system that is being developed, but if we create that ring-road, we must also have the rules and regulations to protect the environment.

Meath Street is part of my area and my wife does the shopping there every Friday morning. Every Friday morning at a busy hour in a narrow street a corporation refuse truck drives down Meath street holding up the traffic and helping to pollute the area. I was on the Continent last week and at quite a late hour, 2 a.m., I saw refuse collectors collecting the rubbish. That is the kind of action I hope the new agency will consider. Local authorities will not do it, because it might cost them a few bob extra to pay overtime. Some things have to be done. That is why I hope independent status will give the agency the teeth they need.

I hope the person appointed director will get things done and make things happen. We often appoint to these jobs people who are very nice and well meaning, but they are not good at getting things done.

I welcome the Bill. I welcome the establishment of the agency and I wish them well. They have a lot to do and they face a great challenge. However, in fairness to our country and despite all the criticism, I think we have a reasonably good environment. Perhaps we should not claim any credit for it because it is a natural environment. We have a small population but we do not have a large industrial belt. For all that, we must mind, guard and protect our environment. I see this agency doing that in a very positive way.

I compliment the Minister on the introduction of this important Bill. Despite the importance we attach to its provisions now, I can well envisage that future generations will attach even greater importance to them.

With regard to its title, "Environmental Protection Agency Bill", since this will be an agency for the protection of the environment a more appropriate title might have been "Environment Protection Agency Bill", but that is merely by the way. In one section there is a definition of "the environment" which includes the atmosphere, the land, soil, water and all living organisms. Since there are merely two forms of life on this planet, plant and animal life, I take it that the reference to living organisms includes human beings. In another part of the Bill there is a definition of "air pollution" which is derived from the Air Pollution Act. It is said that air pollution is a condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such a quantity as to be liable to be injurious to public health, a pollutant of the atmosphere in such quantity as is liable to be injurious to health as well as other things.

I wonder whether pollution arising from television transmissions would come under the aegis of this proposed agency. I pose that question because in County Roscommon a local radio station — Shannonside — erected a mast on a local mountain known as Slieve Bán and rented a site on that mast to Horizon who let it be known that they would be transmitting television signals for BBC 1, BBC 2, UTV and so on by way of the MMDS system. Approximately 12 months ago when that proposal came to the notice of local people they were up in arms. Everything had been quiet for the past 12 months but in the last three weeks, Horizon have begun transmitting signals by the MMDS system.

I am not a radio or television engineer and must rely on experts in that field. Some experts tell us there is no need whatever to worry about the MMDS system, that it will present no problems to life, no injurious effects. However, other experts tell us there are definite problems attached thereto. We contacted the Department of Communications some of whose experts say: you do not have to worry unduly about problemsvis-à-vis the MMDS system; they are very small. Yet, when one pursues the matter somewhat further to ascertain just how small were such potential problems, one was told: all right, perhaps it will entail one death per million people. Bearing in mind that our population is approximately three million — if those signals are transmitted nationwide — we would have a death rate of approximately three per annum with a variation of plus or minus two.

People who do not live within the radius of that transmitter, of approximately 30 miles will not be greatly worried, but those who do live within that area are very concerned. Indeed a rate of three deaths per three million people is too high a price to pay. A prediction of one death per million population does not give any indication of what will be the injurious effects on the remainder of the population. For example, I predict it will not be just one person who will be picked out to go to the next life but that everybody in the locality will be affected to some degree over the years. That is my concern about this MMDS transmitter. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say when replying and whether it will come under the aegis of this Bill.

In the course of this debate the farming community were subjected to some flak about pollution, and rightly so. Any polluter should be criticised and encouraged to correct his erring ways. I might give the House a summary of the history surrounding pollution and the farming scene. Some 15 years ago farmers were encouraged to produce more beef, milk, sheep, lamb and cereals. Not alone were they asked to produce more but received incentives in the form of premia to do so and responded to that request. They were told the country would benefit therefrom as would the EC and they themselves. That was true; they did benefit therefrom. Unfortunately, with increased production comes increased waste and with increased waste comes increased pollution. When the polluting factors were taken into consideration there was another move to have farmers curtail effluent and polluting material. They did so at a considerable cost to themselves.

In the case of a small farmer with, say, 50 to 60 acres it would cost in the region of £12,000 to £15,000 to erect a tank to contain effluent and other farm waste. Admittedly there were approximately 65 to 70 per cent grants but, even with them, it would have cost each individual farmer with, say, 50 to 60 acres, at least £4,000 to prevent pollution on his farm. Now a figure of £4,000 may not appear very much to some better-heeled people in this House but, when one realises that £4,000 may have been the extent of that farmer's income for the year, one begins to realise how seriously the farming community viewed their environment and the necessary steps to be taken for its preservation. We should not rely on farmers to be the sole protectors of the environment, since we all benefit therefrom. Therefore any future suggestions for the curtailment of pollution on farms should be accompanied by grants amounting to 100 per cent of the actual cost.

I was interested to hear the comments of some city-based Members on the advantages of baled silage. From an anti-pollution point of view baled silage is very desirable. However, to feed one animal over the winter on baled silage, would cost approximately £50 per animal, whereas the conventionally-produced silage costs in the region of £28 to £30 per annum. Again we would be asking farmers to make a sizeable contribution they are in no position to do at present.

It was wise thinking that led to farmers being asked to increase production. Unfortunately, when such increased production had reached a certain level, the powers-that-be should have foreseen that saturation point would be reached by a given year. Rather then apply the brakes to increased production perhaps five or six years ago the incentives to produce more obtained, and still do. Then when we had reached the edge of the precipice, the chop came with immediate cutbacks whereas, had that been done in a more gradual fashion over the same five or six years, fewer expensive buildings would have been constructed, to the benefit of farmers and the environment. When we talk about over-production we should bear in mind that 101 per cent of requirement represents a surplus, whereas 99 per cent of requirement is a shortfall. It may be a disadvantage to have surplus food but I would prefer a surplus to a shortage. About 50 per cent of the world's population are hungry while other people are penalised for over production.

Teagasc, formally ACOT, that illustrious group of people who were known as farmers' friends and philosophers, have come in for some flak for encouraging farmers to produce more. That was the political thinking of the day. A service was provided to farmers whereby they could ascertain how much fertiliser to use on each acre of land, thereby curtailing excessive use of fertilisers. Heretofore that service was free but now the farmers must pay for it.

Under section 8 the Environmental Protection Agency will have powers to impose heavy penalties. What will happen when county councils are reported for polluting rivers? Will the agency turn a blind eye or will they see to it that sufficient finance is provided to enable the offending councils to curtail their activities, thereby rendering the rivers pollution free? The Minister will have power to make grants available to councils but it remains to be seen how much money will be provided. I wish the Minister well.

I welcome this Bill. In recent years there has been a considerable amount of indiscriminate dumping, much of it in scenic areas such as bogs, forests, lake shores and river banks. This subject comes up regularly at local authority meetings. Members of the general public who are affected by littering and dumping approach public representatives and ask what is to be done. The matter is immediately brought to the attention of the local authority officials but they tell us that they have not the funds to do anything about it and they cannot collect the material which has been illegally dumped. This is an outrageous position at a time when we are attempting to boost tourism and get grants from the EC. Some of those grants should be used to deal with practical problems such as this. If we are serious about developing tourism funds must be made available to clean up these dumps. We must enforce the law through this new agency and the local authorities. Until that is done progress will not be made. I must emphasise the importance of an all-out effort to clean up the countryside.

The local authority of which I am a member have a major problem in finding suitable sites for dumps. Nobody wants a dump located near his dwelling. If local authorities had sufficient funds they could acquire suitable landfill sites. Instead we are strapped for cash and provide a slapdash service. Residents near the main local authority dump in my area are very angry because there is no landfill and the dump represents a health hazard. The county council say they are doing their best with the limited funds at their disposal. This problem will continue unless the new agency and the local authorities act together to tackle it.

Many industries are a cause of pollution. On the one hand we must create new jobs and maintain existing ones. On the other hand there are the problems of noise and air pollution. I have experience of those problems in my constituency. The local authority said it was not their problem. The health board carried out tests and local residents were very concerned. I hope the agency will be able to intervene directly where there is a problem so that we will not have organisations saying it is not their concern with the result that everyone is going around in circles. Immediate action should be taken to deal with these problems. That would be in the best interests of all concerned. At a time when we badly need jobs we do not want them lost for the wrong reasons. Pollution problems should be dealt with expeditiously and in the correct manner. However, if a problem is allowed drag on for six or 12 months naturally local residents, who have certain rights, get up in arms and industrialists are put under pressure.

Grants should be provided for the setting up of recycling plants. I hope the Department will see their way to giving more grants to people who are prepared to set up these plants. I am thinking in particular of people in my constituency who are anxious to set up such a plant and I hope the Minister can see her way to providing them with a grant.

I wish to thank Deputies Foxe and Belton for curtailing their comments in order to allow me contribute to this debate. I had not intended to speak on this Bill. I do not think it is helpful to democracy if spokesmen jump from log to log as the river flows. However, the presence of the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney, in the House today prompted me to contribute. I waited around today because the Second Stage of the Patents Bill is listed to be taken after this Bill and I wanted to contribute to that debate.

In his contribution Deputy Fergus O'Brien said he swims in the River Liffey every day. For the past number of years I have looked at him every morning with great interest to see if I can see the effects of this on his health. I must say that I cannot see any ill effects on his health. About a fortnight ago my wife and I were in Edinburgh for the rugby international and we met Deputy O'Brien in a hotel lobby after the match. Later my wife remarked that Deputy O'Brien looked years younger than me. A dip in the River Liffey every day may be the secret of eternal youth but certainly when one is passing either the River Liffey or the River Lee one would not think they would be in any way beneficial to one's health. However, as Deputy O'Brien said, perhaps he has built up an immunity.

The disposal of toxic waste is one of the major problems facing us. This is not something which came about yesterday or the day before; the problem of how to dispose of the amount of toxic waste being produced has been growing since the war, if not before. When I was Minister for the Environment between June 1981 and March 1982, I recognised that in order to protect our environment and attract industry here we needed to set up a disposal facility for toxic waste. I had arranged to buy a sizeable portion of land near Baldonnel Airport and obtained planning permission for the setting up of a disposal facility which would act as a collection point for toxic waste from all over Ireland. We did not know how waste was being disposed of at that time and I am not sure we do. Companies from Cork to Donegal sometimes make their own arrangements to dispose of this waste safely and at other times they pass it on to waste disposal companies who disposed of it correctly. However, on other occasions they passed it on to disposal companies who did not dispose of it correctly.

I received planning permission for the setting up of a toxic waste facility on this land and, because of the emotiveness of the word "dump", I was determined this would not be called a toxic waste dump. I held a press conference in the Custom House and invited the environment correspondents from the newspapers to attend. We called the proposed plant a toxic waste collection and disposal facility. I impressed upon the journalists the necessity to set up this facility, of knowing where toxic waste was coming from and our responsibility to ensure that it was disposed of correctly. Of course, the following morning the newspapers carried the headline, "Barry Proposes Toxic Waste Dump". As they say, the fur flew and there was great local reaction to this proposal. What prompted me to contribute to this debate was that the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment who was then a Fianna Fáil TD for the constituency next to the one where the proposed facility would be located reacted to my proposal.

I represent that area.

There was also huge reaction to it by the other great defender of the environment, Deputy Mervyn Taylor, who is also a great exponent of the necessity for high environmental protection standards, with which I agree.

And the former Deputy, Michael O'Leary.

Was he not in Dublin Central at the time?

He moved out.

He was in Dublin Central at the time. No doubt he was converted to the Minister's point of view later. They must have understood my proposal but, instead of pointing out the necessity for such a facility to their constituents, Deputy Harney reacted by ensuring the Minister for the Environment of the day — the Government changed in March of that year — did not go ahead with my proposal. Deputy Taylor, whose party were in coalition at the time, ensured we did not go ahead with it either. A toxic waste collection and disposal facility which could have been in place in 1981 is still not in place in 1991, because of the NIMBY attitude of Deputy Harney and Deputy Taylor — not in my back yard.

Does the Deputy not remember that a few months ago he told me in this House he did not want it in Cork?

I told the Minister I did not mind where it was set up so long as it is properly overseen. I cannot say that Deputy Harney and Deputy Taylor are any different to most Deputies or most people. We all approve of landfill sites, toxic waste disposal facilities and chemical industries but only as long as they are not in our back yards. That is a problem with which the Environmental Protection Agency will have to deal.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 4 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 November 1991.