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

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

Before I moved the adjournment of the debate on this important legislation I pointed out that a toxic waste disposal unit could have been set up here ten years ago but was not. Nobody knows where some of the toxic waste has been disposed of in the intervening period because there has been no method of monitoring, no law governing the disposal of toxic waste and, much more important, we have not given those who produce toxic waste a facility whereby it can be disposed of legally and visibly so that we can be sure it does not get into the ground, streams or rivers.

At the moment, for several reasons, the matter of environmental protection, with which this Bill deals, is assuming a very high priority in people's consciousness. The Bill seeks to establish the Environmental Protection Agency. The whole question of the disposal of waste and the protection of the environment is not only engaging the attention of county councils, urban councils and town commissioners but that of the public who are extremely concerned about what is happening.

In the past 12 months much attention has been given to a landfill site on the south side of Cork city that has been used for perhaps 20 years as a landfill site for the city. Much of the land that has been filled has been reclaimed and been built on. Sports fields have been provided on the site and it is proposed to build new homes on it. Indeed, a new road has been put through it. The landfill site is now in its final years. There was considerable agitation by the people living in the vicinity of the site. It was raised in the June local government elections and had been an issue with the council before. A member of the corporation tabled a motion, which was passed, recommending that the site be closed within five years. Local residents, and, indeed, the people of Cork city, were pleased with that decision. However, the motion stopped short of suggesting an alternative method to dispose of the many thousands of tonnes of waste that would be produced in Cork city after that. The problem can be solved. The corporation own the land which is now being filled. It is inside the city boundary, which is tightly drawn, and the cost of disposing of waste there is reasonable. I do not wish to exaggerate that; it is reasonable.

However, the cost of transport of waste, the procurement of a site, the application for planning permission and the agitation that would follow from moving to another site is something the corporation could not afford. It is obvious that the Government will have to pick up the tab for that. I know that the former Minister for the Environment was approached on several occasions in the past few years to provide funds necessary to establish another waste disposal facility. That will have to be provided if the corporation's motion to close the landfill site within five years is to be adhered to.

The management of the site is reasonably good. Problems have been experienced with smells, seagulls and rodents, but the corporation pay an amount of attention to its management. To have a landfill site on one's doorstep is not pleasant. If I were asked whether I would permit a new landfill site in my backyard I would certainly say "No". I understand the concern of the people who live there.

Would the Deputy have the toxic dump instead?

I do not think the Minister is serious in that question; she is probably trying to get her own back for remarks I made previously about the provision of a toxic waste disposal facility which I had arranged. I do not want to go over those arguments again. The Minister and Deputy Taylor presented themselves as the great guardians of the environment, and they took personal responsibility to ensure that the waste disposal facility went anywhere other than in their backyard. If the Minister does not face up to her responsibilities in the education of the public then people will continually follow her example and refuse to have the facility in their own backyard. The Minister will not be able to blame them for that.

There are problems of disposal of ordinary domestic waste and of toxic waste disposal. It will cost a large amount of money to do that but if we do not face up to the costs involved we will continually face agitation and a danger to the environment by people illegally dumping waste. The illegal dumping of waste is one of the biggest problems because the Government have not provided legal dumping facilities. There has been considerable concern expressed — and it is ironic that Deputy Dukes made the point earlier in this debate — and we call constantly for the closure of Sellafield. At the same time because we do not provide a toxic waste disposal facility here we export toxic waste to Sellafield to have them dispose of it there even though, out of the other side of our mouths, we call for the closure of that plant. The Government have a huge responsibility to face up to this.

When the former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, first spoke about the establishment of a toxic waste facility here he said that, of course, there would be no importation of waste into this country to be disposed of by our disposal facility. Nonetheless he had no problem at all about sending our waste to another jurisdiction. I am not sure — and perhaps the Minister of State would enlighten me on this point — whether the former Minister had entered into discussions with the Du Pont people in the North to establish a toxic waste disposal facility in their area.

To my mind, European law that stipulates that every country should have a toxic waste disposal facility, is daft in that the sheer size of such facility would be far too large for, say, Luxembourg, probably for this country, Portugal and perhaps others. Therefore, European law does not make sense. Evidently the thinking behind that law is that it is desirable that toxic waste would not be transported over great distances. That is nonsense as well because to transport toxic waste from, say, the north of Scotland down to the south of England is a far greater distance than would be involved in its transportation from, say, Dublin to Derry. If we are to have a toxic waste disposal facility, one for this entire island would be sufficient. I am not technically qualified to say what would be the correct size but I imagine one such facility would be sufficient for this country, North and South.

It is the responsibility of the Minister in particular and the Government to engage in an educational process, choosing the most suitable site involving the minimum transportation of toxic waste on this island. They should take their courage in their hands, finance it, have it established as quickly as possible and thereby eliminate this scandal of toxic waste being dumped by irresponsible people at points all over the country. That is the greatest scandal. Because such toxic waste disposal facility has not been established such practices are continuing. I am certain that 90 per cent of the producers and disposers of toxic waste are honest people and dump in a conscientious manner. But the remaining 10 per cent are not responsible. The Minister should be concerned to ensure that whatever they produce is brought to a proper waste disposal facility.

I have a document here entitled Environmental Notes for Parliamentarians issued under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme with the support of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in which it is said:

Commission funding worth £16 million ECUs is to be allocated for an operational programme aimed at environmental pollution control in Northern Ireland.

The European Regional Development Fund (European Regional Development Fund) will finance the Community's contribution to the programme which has a total of 24 million ECUs and falls within the framework of the Community's ENVIREG initiative. The main objectives of the ENVIREG initiative are to reduce pollution in the Community's less-developed regions, especially outlying coastal areas, improve the management and co-ordination of hazardous and toxic waste and the development of land use in coastal areas to preserve the natural environment.

Evidently the Northern Ireland authorities received 16 million ECUs out of a total fund of 24 million ECUs, a very generous contribution, presumably on the basis of a programme presented to the European Commission. I should be grateful if the Minister would inform the House whether we have submitted such a programme to the Commission and whether it is funded. If it is funded perhaps the Minister would tell us whether it is funded by way of a joint submission from Northern Ireland and Dublin to the Commission for funding for the facility for toxic waste disposal. Perhaps the Minister would also inform us whether there is funding for the land in Cork, about which I spoke earlier, whether the dump there is to be closed in five years and moved to another area and whether funds will be got from the European Regional Development Fund under the programme for pollution control. If the people in Cork could see that funding was coming from that source the idea of closing the dump would carry more credibility. It does not carry much credibility at present because people perceive it to have been more or less a political stroke, with one eye on the local elections, rather than concern for the environment in which they live. If the Minister could make an announcement saying: yes, there is money available under this programme from the European Commission, a portion of which will be sent to Cork Corporation so that they can begin to plan for the provision of a new site when the present one closes, that would certainly help.

The last point I want to make is in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency itself. The Minister will be aware that there were charges made recently in Cork vis-á-vis people's concerns and objections in regard to chemical industries, in particular in the harbour area. Indeed the Minister for Industry and Commerce referred to this when he was in Cork approximately two months ago, as have the IDA and Cork County Council. With the very high level of unemployment in Cork the establishment of high quality employment plants is needed. Next year the Sandoz plant will be opening there. After more than two years they have not yet found their way through the labyrinth of objections to their proposals. Their submissions have been taken as far as the Supreme Court with regard to emissions into the air under the licence granted by Cork County Council. In the final analysis I am sure the establishment of that plant will take place. If any other prospective employer were to come to Cork and discover that it took Sandoz nearly three years to complete their planning they would not be enthused about establishing a plant in the Cork region.

In reply to a parliamentary question I tabled in the past month the former Minister admitted that the IDA had told him there were two occasions when prospective employers — because of the planning problems experienced in the Cork region — had decided not to continue their interest in the region. I do not know who those people were but that is very disturbing news. As against that, one cannot take away people's rights to protect their environment and to have recourse to the laws to do so.

We must devise in this House — and here the responsibility rests with the Government — a comprehensive planning structure so that people will know precisely how long such planning will take. Of course that applies only to industrialists coming here. We must devise some new law vis-à-vis planning that will stipulate a final date within which a planning application must be completed. That would mean that an industrialist from any part of the world hoping to establish a chemical plant in the Cork region, which is where the problem lies, would know the precise duration of the term within which their application would be dealt with. Of course that should be as short a time as possible, whether six months, two months for the original planning application, two months for an appeal, or whatever, so that they would be aware there was a specified final date. They should know there is finality and that they will not be taken from court to court, incurring considerable expense. Sandoz took the risk and went ahead but two other companies went elsewhere. I am not advocating that dirty industries should be welcomed or claiming that we do not need laws to protect the environment. I am saying that there should be some finality in the planning process so that the possibility of being dragged through the courts does not have the effect of industries turning away.

I make the point politically that when the Bill is passed the agency should be established in Cork. That is the area I represent and I want jobs to be created there. I would not mind being accused of looking for jobs in my constituency. There is, however, another compelling reason for the establishment of the agency in Cork. The problems regarding chemical industries and the need for environmental protection have a higher profile in the Cork Harbour region than anywhere else. No other location has so many industries of this type and no other local authority has more expertise in environmental protection than Cork County Council. They have more expertise than any other county council in the control of the environment.

I hope the Minister when replying will state that the agency will be immediately established, staffed and located following the passage of the legislation. I am advocating Cork as the location not because it is the city I am from but because that is where the problem is most keenly perceived and where the expertise exists to deal with the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency must be established in Cork. That is the only logical thing to do. I am not pleading with the Minister; it should be there anyway.

Can anything be done about the blight on the environment from Malin Head to Mizen Head caused by ESB and telephone poles which are dotted across the countryside? If one drives from Castle-townbere to Allihies one sees lines of wooden poles with loops of wire. If the Government want to engage in employment creation outside the Dublin area they can undertake a programme, extending perhaps over ten years, to place these wires and cables underground. I would be reasonably confident that funds would be available from Europe. Rural employment could be increased quite considerably and the visual impact of the countryside would be immeasurably improved. The irony is that the small farmers have had to pay for the erection of these ugly poles. Anyone dealing with rural electrification knows that people were asked to pay perhaps £1,200 or £1,500 per pole to get electricity brought half a mile to their dwelling. The Taoiseach is only paying £15,000 to have windmills installed on his island. No wonder the people are cynical.

Concern has been expressed about MMDS masts. I believe the concerns expressed have been very much exaggerated in regard to the levels of radiation emitted by MMDS masts. Of course, it does not matter what I believe. People believe there is a danger of contracting cancer from proximity to MMDS masts. Assurances in this regard from people who have knowledge and expertise in this area would help to alleviate such fears. Concern has been expressed in Galway and in Cork about the radiation dangers. It is a concern I do not share.

It is with considerable pleasure that I welcome this legislation. This Bill shows the firm commitment of the Minister of State to stamp her ideas on the Department of the Environment. It is futuristic legislation in that it endeavours to provide protection across many different areas of the natural environment. It is a definite step forward. The Minister has shown her commitment in the legislation regarding clean air for Dublin, which has proved an outstanding success. Anyone who has lived through the last few years of polluted air in Dublin will realise that what seemed impossible to achieve was done in one fell swoop.

The delicate environment in which we live and which we treasure must be protected by imaginative legislation, not only setting up agencies of this kind but providing for decisive action when necessary. As time goes on we will need imaginative ideas and brave moves. So many interacting forces stand in the way of making moves towards a better environment that there is a conflict between progress and protection. There is great pressure from multinational companies who are siting welcome industries here and creating jobs, but this must never be at a price to the delicate environment of which we are temporary custodians. It is all very fine to speak in terms of punitive fines and terms of imprisonment for transgressions of the law relating to the environment. Perhaps before she replies the Minister will examine the possibility of making studies of the environment part of the school curriculum. The protection of our environment has become so urgent it deserves to be made a State examination subject. It should be introduced at junior certificate level and, if possible, made part of the curriculum during children's formative years. Our environment depends on the development of an educated attitude.

At present we can see on our television screens the horrendous war in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. In the past many Irish people had very enjoyable holidays in that country and saw the beautiful city of Dubrovnik in all its splendour. That city is now being turned into rubble. Only last year we saw burning oil wells in Kuwait causing horrendous damage to the environment. We also saw the disastrous oil slick off the coast of Alaska. Television has made the world smaller and brought the issue of protecting our natural environment into our homes. It is a matter of urgency that we educate our children on this issue and the only way we can do this is by formalising our attitude towards the environment and not merely depending on its being made a branch of engineering, physics or some other subject of that nature. It has to be made a subject in its own right. Students who undertake studies of our environment should be rewarded at examination time.

There are many aspects of environmental pollution — water pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, recycling of waste, etc. The Department of Education have at their disposal the necessary infrastructure to introduce a syllabus including this subject, in second level schools; this subject is tackled to some extent in civics at primary level. However, when students enter second level education they understandably become obsessed about getting on by pursuing courses in the humanities, physics etc. Scant regard is paid by schools to what I would regard as the most important subject of all, the protection of the delicate ecological balance of this planet. Because no recognition is given to this subject, students are not as worried about it as they should be. We have a duty to give young people the opportunity to study this subject.

I know the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, has the imagination and initiative to see that this issue is carried through to the classrooms. It could also be made a degree course in third level institutions. This would ensure that the development studies carried out by students throughout Europe would lead to greater international co-operation. While we pay lip service to the fact that pollution is a trans-global problem and that burning bituminous coal at Money-point transports acid rain to areas in Scandinavia and Iceland, it is a shame that we do not attach enough importance to this issue from an educational point of view.

For the past ten years or so we have been screaming for the closure of the nuclear waste bin, as I call it, on our doorstep, Sellafield. I am convinced the reason we have not made progress in this area is that Irish nuclear authorities depend on the British authorities for much of their information. We do not have enough expertise on nuclear issues to cope with these multinational companies. People here have not been properly educated to enable them to cope adequately with overseas so-called experts who are putting this country at risk by keeping Sellafield open. The education of students on the need to protect our environment is the key to the future.

I recently visited Uganda. It is a strange irony that Third World countries do not abuse the natural environment to the same extent as developed western countries. For example, the people there do not discard plastic bottles, wood or metal for the simple reason that what matters most to them is tomorrow's breakfast. The amount of waste in Ireland, England and, to a more vulgar extent, America is so great it is an embarrassment. We can learn a lot from Third World countries on how to use many of the items we dispose of. Our attitude to waste is shameful.

I do not think it has been recognised that the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, set in train pilot schemes for the recycling of waste. However, many of these schemes which were operated in certain areas of Dublin have been halted all of a sudden. Young people took to these schemes very well. As I said earlier, the effects of the legislation introduced by the Minister to combat the smog problem in Dublin can be seen by everybody. Yet a halt has been called to the schemes for the recycling of waste. The Minister should take up this initiative again. I know the citizens of Dublin would cooperate with her making such schemes work.

I should like to refer to the question of waste management. As I said earlier, we can learn much from Third World countries. In western developed societies we look back to history, to the founders of our nation, how they struggled to build our country and we look back to prehistoric times and see how people struggled to survive. We also have our present and we plan for our future. We plan where we will be in ten to 15 years' time, we look onwards, we take out insurance policies, we think of pensions, but we do not think so much about our environment and how it will be in the future. In Third World countries they have their past, they certainly have their present but they do not have the same attitude towards the future. They have what they call an extended presence and their concern is for tomorrow's breakfast, their foodstuff and their survival. Yet, with all the education and the wealth at our disposal, we are not thinking about how the planet will survive; we are not doing anything positive about it. We hear facts and figures about global warming, about ripping asunder rain forests. Perhaps today somewhere in the world an entire geographical area the size of Munster has been stripped of it trees. These are horrendous practices. It is not until the planet warms by a degree or two that we react. Why? It is because we do not have the educational input or concern; we think in a selfish manner how we will be as far as our material wealth is concerned in 20 or 30 years. We have scant regard for future generations, scant regard for children who will have to take the planet in whatever way they will find it. We are guilty in that respect.

We have an opportunity on this island to demand from countries with money that they look upon Ireland as a country that could be earmarked for environmental protection. It would not take an enormous sum of money to put Ireland forward as an example for Europe of a pollution free country. One would not be talking about an enormous cost in the budgets of Germany, France or the very wealthy countries in Europe. We should demand EC funding for many of our projects. We should demand for our environment protection from Europe because it is the pollution-free market garden for good growing and foodstuffs. We have to tackle environmental protection on many different fronts.

I referred to the question of the educational input in schools and I urge the Minister to do something about it. A formalised approach would be where my son or anyone's son or daughter can sit the junior certificate or leaving certificate and gain an A in environmental studies which would give them as much qualification to enter third level education as, say, geography, history, Irish or whatever.

We should be prepared to take examples of environmental pollution directly to the European court. The striking example is Sellafield. There has been much discussion about Sellafield, whether we would succeed in the European court if we were to take British Nuclear Fuels to law on this issue. I firmly believe we should make a point of doing that; we will not know unless we try. We will spend enormous sums of money on other forms of litigation. The world would look to Ireland in that respect and there would be an enormous international focus on exactly what we were trying to do. Perhaps we would contain in some way what seems to me the unbridled expansion of the THORP plant and the underground storage of waste disposal there. Rather than going over the litany of statistics that condemn British Nuclear Fuels for the inaccurate information they have cynically fed out over the years, it would focus attention on the future because this is a money-making industry which is a potential timebomb on our doorsteps. We do not want another Chernobyl to prove that we should have done something about that. It behoves this nation to take British Nuclear Fuels to the European court on that singular issue and to go as hard as we possibly can on it.

In relation to any offensive environmental destruction, we can fingerpoint nations that destroy rain forests as well. In the context of this type of Environmental Protection Agency Bill, I do not think it is the Minister's intention that legislation of this kind would have a narrow national significance only because the environment does not have that national significance only: it has an immense international significance. If there are areas such as nuclear radiation or the destruction of rain forests, why not embody in that legislation ways and means of getting international courts and fingerpointing nations that are causing offence of this kind. Unless we, like the so-called developed western nations, engage in aggressive action of that kind, as soon as Third World countries begin to get on their feet — they are not there yet — and as soon as they want consumer goods which will be thrown at them, and they will be exploited into buying consumer goods they do not need — environmental pollution will descend on the people who, on the one hand, are trying to protect the environment but, on the other hand, are causing the offence.

As a nation we must be prepared to play our part in breaking the vicious cycle where the multinationals have such a firm grip and control on developing industries. We must stop the shameless destruction of countries that cannot afford to stand up to the multinationals. Nations such as ourselves, through international litigation, without fear or favour, must be prepared to take on these groups. We can play that part and would gain international respect for so doing. There are ways in which Ireland can play its part and the Minister can broaden her brief beyond our nation by taking on board that idea.

I congratulate the Minister. I wish her well with this legislation. There is much that can be said about it. It is a major Bill. I do not wish to express any cynicism about legislation of this kind. That would be wrong, but we have many examples of legislation of this kind to do with the environment that have fallen on deaf ears, for example, the Litter Bill, 1982, which introduced ways and means of working towards a litter-free environment, particularly in Dublin. I am afraid that, like much legislation, it was never enforced for one reason or another. That leads me to believe that the key is education. I am convinced of that. We have to encourage the school children to do the field world. I cannot hide my bias in this respect. I would award them more points for that than I would for certain subjects that are more narrowly based.

The Minister's portfolio offers her a huge opportunity. I would like to see her succeed in the area of educational input and I appeal to her to take account of that aspect. I look forward to the Minister's summary and to participating on Committee Stage which will give us greater opportunity to raise particular issues. I welcome the legislation and wish it well.

Listening to the previous two speakers one would have to conclude that the debate has been somewhat repetitive. I agree with Deputy Brady and the previous speaker because, generally speaking, environmental control problems are common. Local authorities have to deal with environmental control and are often badly equipped to do the job. The main controlling unit in regard to the environment is the local authority. If they cannot do the job there will be a very big gap in environmental control. Over the last few years local authorities have lost a substantial proportion of outdoor staff and that causes problems for environment control. The outdoor staff actually work on the environment and local authorities who have shed large percentages of their outdoor staff are facing problems. The outdoor staff of the local authority sweep the streets, clean the gullies and do all the menial work which is very important in the control of the environment.

While it is not often that State agencies are complimented, I compliment FÁS who have had a major impact on environmental development in all areas. They have utilised labour in a positive way. Young and not so young people who had been long term unemployed were paid to do positive work making a major impact on the environment throughout the country.

Having spent some time in London recently I was pleased to come back to my own town. The environment in County Louth is way ahead of the environment in many areas of London. I was appalled at the condition of the environment at the centre of the universe, as far as democracy was concerned. When I came back to Ireland I felt I was on a different planet. I had the same experience on returning from Brussels recently. We run down our country and find faults with it but we rarely give credit where it is due. Generally speaking, the environment here will match the environment in any other country in the world and we are way up the league table as far as the environment generally is concerned.

Most of the abuse of the environment here is caused in a number of specific ways. The pollution is being caused by many of the people who publicly complain about the environment. Most of the pollution on the streets in urban areas throughout the country is caused by takeaways and other shops. Packaging and cans bought in those shops are just thrown on the streets by young and not so young people and, particularly over the weekend, towns are faced with huge litter problems. Incorporated in any regulations which the Minister might draw up under this Bill should be a solution to this litter problem. The takeaways should be controlled as to their opening hours and their numbers. Guidelines should be set down to control that area and such shops should have to pay a bigger contribution to local authorities towards the cleaning up operations, particularly at weekends. This is a problem that tourists notice. A very small proportion of the population cause this huge amount of litter over the weekends.

This brings me back to the outdoor staff of local authorities. Formerly local authorities could employ people for Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings to carry out cleaning up operations. Some local authorities can still do this but in other local authorities this work has been cut back because of restricted finance.

I am pleased the Minister has introduced this Bill. All would agree she has made a positive contribution towards solving the problem of our environment. It is significant that the Minister is a woman. Women can tell us more about environmental control than men.

Hear, hear.

If an example could be taken from the women of Ireland——

The Deputy is surrounded by them at the moment.

I like to point to the truth. The women of Ireland have to keep the homes. They do all the donkey work. They keep the house tidy, they keep the garden tidy, they keep the environment around the home tidy and they keep their children tidy. It stands to reason that they know more about tidiness and environmental control than their opposite numbers, the men of the world, who mostly go out at night eating bags of chips and throwing the boxes all over the street. I suppose a few women would do that too but, from what I can see, the main villains of the peace late at night are men.

The local authorities have generally welcomed the Bill. However, many of the officials that I spoke to about it say that, as in the case of other Bills where the local authorities have to play a major part in putting them into effect, they can only do so if they are given the finance, the back-up to carry out the work that will be necessary under the provisions of the Bill. There is no point in putting legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas and handing down regulations to local authorities if they are not given the money to carry out the work. If this happens the Bill will have been a waste of time and a total failure.

As someone who lives fairly close to Sellafield, whose constituency is probably closer to it than anybody else's, I must add my voice on that subject. Studies and soil testing carried out in County Louth, particularly in north County Louth and across the Border in County Down, clearly establish that the level of radioactivity in the soil in those two counties on numerous occasions is, has been, and continues to be higher than the national average. This must be a clear indication that radioactivity is finding its way across the Irish Sea, into our homes, our streets and our air. There are consistent assurances by the various agencies that this is not harmful. That is not the picture that is being painted for us in County Louth. We still have not been able to effectively prove or disprove that Sellafield is not and was not responsible for the very large degree of Down's Syndrome found in children in County Louth particularly in the Dundalk area when there was a leakage from Sellafield. I have been over there on delegations and protests with other Members of this House and other colleagues serving on local authorities on a number of occasions.

We must keep up the pressure and keep saying to the British that we disapprove of Sellafield, that we are fearful for our people and that our people are fearful about its effects. We must keep saying it at EC level; we must keep saying it until such time as some political grouping in the UK do something about it, perhaps the next government there. I think there is a better chance that a Labour Government in the UK would do something about it than a Conservative Government and hopefully that will come to pass.

Recycling has been referred to by virtually every speaker. There is a somewhat half-hearted approach to that by the Department. The unit that deals with that could be strengthened, given more teeth and more money. There are a number of people who are unemployed who would be happy to get involved in this area of recycling at local level. This can only be done if these people are given the financial incentive to do so. Many people in my consitituency who wanted to get involved in this activity were discouraged because they did not have enough money. There were people who have been made redundant and who were prepared to put in a limited amount of their funds if they got the necessary support from the Department.

This is a very slow process. It takes an enormous amount of time to get a project off the ground. The Minister should examine the whole operation of recycling and get reports from the local authorities to see what exactly they have done in encouraging that. Young people, for example, have met this subject in a very positive way. Organisations like the Red Cross have been able to make a few pounds for their organisation to spend on the poorer sections of our community by recycling and by becoming more involved in that activity.

I agree also that the whole question of the environment is one that should be dealt with through our educational system. It should be a more positive subject in the curriculum and should be set for examination purposes, ranking at least equally with other subjects in the present curriculum.

There are quite a number of things we should do to improve the environment. The biggest one would be to tackle the whole question of water pollution. Here again we know the cause of water pollution. I live on the coast in a town built on one of the most famous rivers, the Boyne. The pollution of the river Boyne is caused by the local authorities depositing huge amounts of sewage into the river itself. That is not the fault of Drogheda Corporation, of Navan Urban District Council or the local authorities of the towns on the banks of the river Boyne. The cause of the problem has been the length of time it has taken to build a sewage treatment plant. Naturally we are pleased that Drogheda Corporation have at last been able to find the money, through EC funding, to build the necessary plant, hopefully within the next two or three years. Plans are well ahead at this stage. The point is that it would never have been possible to do that without EC funding because treatment plants cost anything from £10 million to £30 million. The only way that can be done is to utilise funding available from the EC which must be matched by funding from whatever Government is in power.

Pollution from sewage is the biggest source of pollution and the biggest source of danger to the health of the people in this country that I am aware of. There are many areas of our coast where people cannot swim in the sea. They certainly cannot swim in our rivers and that situation has developed in my lifetime. I learned how to swim in the river Boyne and swam there for many years as a young boy. However, one will not see any young people swimming in the river now and that is because of the raw sewage and other industrial waste that is being dumped into the river. That river is a typical example of what has happened all over the country.

The pollution of our lakes, particularly in scenic areas and those with huge tourist potential, has happened simply because of bad planning by local authorities, because pits are located too close to streams that flow into our lakes and where planning permission has been given without considering the effects of pollution on our reservoirs and lakes. While we can do a lot to improve our environment further we should not create a false image that we do not care about the environment, that we will continue to pollute our atmosphere, rivers and lakes and are not prepared to do anything about it.

Residents and tenants' associations all over the country are now availing of whatever financial assistance is available, however limited it may be, from local authorities to make a positive impact on the environment. I welcome this. Let me cite what I consider to be the best example. In one area when the sales of local authority houses increased substantially, the local authority transferred the moneys that were to be used for housing repairs to the heading "environmental control". They offered substantial grants to housing estate committees to purchase equipment and to plant trees, shrubs and plants; in other words, they encouraged people to take care of their own environment within housing estates. Usually, the visual results were very positive.

This Bill will give the local authorities teeth but it will only succeed if moneys are provided for the local authorities and the various agencies who will do the work. In welcoming the Bill I must offer my congratulations to the Minister of State for taking the initiative. I am sure the Bill will be successful.

I am sorry the Minister of State had to leave as I wanted to welcome her personally to the House while she steers this very important legislation through the House. I was also hoping to take the opportunity to commend her for introducing the legislation which got rid of smog in Dublin. That measure has been largely but not entirely successful in that this winter people in the city will be able to breathe more easily and the city's infrastructure will improve as a result. Prior to the introduction of that legislation many people were sceptical about the possibility of clearing away this smog. They felt it was useless to ban the sale of bituminous coal when people could continue to light fires. As a nation we like open fires. They also drew a parallel with London 25 years ago when the city had been choked by smog. As far as I can remember, rigid rules were brought in at that time. People were not allowed to light a fire of any kind. However, there were no smokeless fuels at that time. I am delighted with the results of the legislation and hope we can go on from here. I also hope the Minister of State will extend the legislation to cover other cities so that other densely populated areas where there are traditional coal fires will benefit.

Before Deputy Bell leaves the House I would like to respond to some of the points he made when he spoke about the role of women in relation to environmental protection. He is quite right when he says that many of the main proponents of environmental protection at both national and international level are women. I am thinking of such women as Petra Kelly whose voice was one of the first I heard alerting us to what was happening on a global level. One of the reasons for this is that women produce children — not entirely on their own — and are aware of the need for continuity, to ensure that their children are not killed in war or poisoned by the environment and to pass on an environmentally clean world to their children.

Like other speakers, I am very relieved that this long anticipated Environmental Protection Agency Bill is before the House at last but despite the best intentions of this House, I hazard a guess that the agency, its advisers and structures will not be a reality for perhaps another year. I say this with regret rather than to rebuke the Minister of State, as I note from her speech her sense of frustration and even desperation at the tedious and long drawn out incubation period of the Bill. It is something on which I can sympathise with her because I know what the process of preparing and drafting legislation is like. It is like a political iceberg: the important parts of the legislation are hidden from public view and only the tip is seen. Important legislation, particularly an original Bill in a new policy area, suffers inexplicably from delays in production which should not occur. I am not suggesting that short cuts should be taken in the process of consultation or research but, if the Bill had been given the priority it deserves, it would have been enacted by now.

This is substantial legislation comprising 110 sections. While I have no doubt Members will give the debate due urgency and co-operate in every way, it will have to be scrutinised line by line on Committee and Report Stages. In the Seanad 416 amendments were tabled, of which 111 were passed. That is an indication of the interest that will be shown the Bill in this House, which is how it should be. While the main structures and details of Bills are written elsewhere, the refining, revising and amending by legislators is the vital element and should not be seen as a threat or criticism. I am heartened by the style and approach adopted by the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, when she dealt with the Bill in the Seanad. I look forward to an equally good mannered and co-operative debate in this House; the debate so far has been extremely co-operative.

This is an ambitious Bill and aims to whip our environment into shape between now and the year 2000. The Minister of State calls it strong medicine. It will be a legal canopy setting up an environmental watch dog to license, monitor, advise, supervise and carry out research. It will work on an integrated basis, controlling systems for air, water and waste. The agency will promote good environmental practices and penalise bad ones. It will establish a labelling scheme for environmentally friendly products and services and set down codes of practice and quality objectives.

It is a happy litany of aims; who would not want to see them implemented quickly? Who among us also feels that quick implementation is going to be the order of the day? I suspect the sad outcome, when it comes to allocating resources to give the agency teeth, will be questionable, that short cuts will be taken. I have no doubt the Minister of State will do a fine job in giving the Bill life, but I fear other people in other Departments and places will butcher it. We all know that we are talking about substantial running costs. One has only to read through the detail of the legislation and what is proposed to know that it will be very costly to finance. Therefore, substantial funds will have to be guaranteed by the Government. Indeed, I had to smile wryly at the final paragraph in the explanatory memorandum regarding the financial implications. It states that as the agency become operational their costs will increasingly be offset by licence fees and charges for services. I wish them luck but I am not too optimistic.

Section 10 enables the agency to claim fines imposed by the courts on prosecution. I am not sure whether this is a novel provision, it is certainly an interesting one, under which the agency will have a vested interest in prosecution. Has consideration been given to whether this will in any way compromise the agency? Perhaps it will not, perhaps it is a worthwhile measure which will, undoubtedly, guarantee a certain income in the years to come. I wonder if it has been done anywhere else and what the experience has been of this type of measure.

Thankfully, the revolution to protect the environment, to get rid of abuses and to reclaim our environment where it has already been abused or killed, is continuing and cannot be reversed. No other movement of our time has taken hold so dramatically, effectively and broadly, impacting awareness at all levels, local, national, European and international. My earliest recollection of large scale public protest on an environmental issue was the opposition to a proposed nuclear station at Carnsore, County Wexford. Other speakers referred to this. Indeed many were nostalgic in their recollections of the protest. At that time my eldest daughter, who was then still in college, spent a very wet muddy weekend camping at the proposed site to protest. She was not the sort to take on radical politics of any kind. I was quite surprised when she told me she was part of this campaign and going on the weekend. However, I realised she was part of this young movement which had been so seriously and realistically touched by the likelihood that we would have a nuclear station in the south-east. They were having none of it, they were uncompromising in their approach to the matter. We should be thankful to the young activists of that time because their campaign was successful and the plan was dropped.

One woman who figures in my memory of the environmental debate is Petra Kelly, one of the founders of the German Green Party, one of the early voices warning of the devastation resulting from international policies with regard to nuclear energy, deforestation and the general waste of natural resources. Hers was a lone voice — I think I first heard her in 1978 or 1979 — and she had a compelling message. I am sure she converted many. She contributed greatly to the comprehensive environmental controls and the legislation which has been in place for some time in Germany.

Ireland is coming late in the day to environmental protection. I do not think we should be congratulating ourselves on a green unspoiled land. It is more by accident than design and there has been great abuse. For instance, I saw the decline of Lough Sheelin, County Cavan, 12 years ago because I spent weekends in the area on a regular basis; 12 years ago it was a tranquil spot, a beautiful water landscape which drew crowds for picnics, swimming, boating and fishing. It would be hard to find a more delightful inland waterway. Then, over the years, it died, which was very sad; thousands of gallons of farm effluent were dumped irresponsibly and deliberately in the lake. Fish were poisoned, vegetation died and the overall picture was almost like a desert. Hotels ceased to function, boat hire companies went out of business and it was awful to see how such a beautiful spot, from which people got so much enjoyment, could so easily be turned into a virtual desert. However, I believe that some remedial action has been taken, pollution has been reduced and the lake on the way to recovery, which I am very pleased to hear.

How much of this type of pollution is going on? Lough Sheelin is a major lake and people could see what was happening but I suspect there are smaller rivers and streams which are similarly polluted by irresponsible dumping. I wonder how such pollution can be stopped. Can it be detected earlier or prevented? Will the best possible measures for detection be part of the Bill? They are not enshrined in it as it stands. Recently, while in county Waterford on a walk in the country, I saw a case of deliberate pollution; a small pipe leading from a cattle shed was discharging slurry into what had been a small stream. The result was that the water was fetid, flowers and bushes were withered and there was a dreadful smell. This was not an accidental leakage of farm effluent, it was a deliberate act of ongoing pollution by a prosperous farmer, although I know that no farmer will admit to being prosperous. I contacted the local authority involved and was assured that the area would be inspected as I had given the details. I hope the matter will be resolved.

Will there be a facility for inspecting farm areas and farmlands by local authority officials under the Bill? Will the public have to continue being the police force in country areas? Serious pollution has been caused over the years by the farming community. Every summer there are fish kills in rivers and lakes, there has been a growth in the use of mechanised farming and an increase in the amount of insecticides and artificial fertilisers in recent years. The debate on agricultural pollution has very much centred on grant-aid to farmers to try to give them an incentive to care for the environment. I find this quite extraordinary. I do not understand this thinking. How can we expect good practice on a long term basis from all involved in productive business if they have to be paid to protect the environment? Responsible behaviour which protects, preserves and nurtures our natural environment, must be an intrinsic part of operation in any industry, farming, chemical and energy production.

My colleague, Deputy Dukes, in his contribution touched on a question which also interests me, that of battery disposal. I should like to ask the Minister what the chances are of starting a battery bank such as we have for cans and glass recycling. We should at least have one for button batteries as I have been told they are very hazardous when dumped. Thousands are discarded every year because they are used in calculators, cameras and dictating machines. They contain silver and mercury and are a serious hazard if randomly discarded. One camera distributor told me that there is concern in the industry at what is happening. People just wantonly throw away these batteries. People in the industry have been asked again and again by their counterparts in Germany and Denmark whether we have a collection programme not only to responsibly dispose of the batteries but also to break down the component parts for reuse. I would be interested to know if there are any proposals in this regard, what is happening in other European countries and if it is possible that the component parts of batteries, particularly button batteries, can be reused.

There are many matters that can be raised in this legislation. The contributions have been very varied, some technical and more informed that others. When one focuses on the environment one thinks of it in broad terms. Matters such as Chernobyl, the burning wells after the Gulf War, global warming, Brazilian forests, Sellafield and so on are too great to cope with. All these incidents are happening at a distance and we have no control over them. However, Ireland and other European countries can introduce co-ordinated legislation, standards and regulations and put in place the kind of educational provisions that Deputy Gerard Brady spoke about. We would then achieve a uniform respect for the environment and a commitment from people generally to its protection. Unless we do that we will end up with a world sadly depleted of natural resources.

In focusing attention on a Bill as comprehensive as this, we tend to consider our own environment and community. We think of the matters that irritate us and about which something should be done. Apart from the smog in Dublin the greatest concern to me is the pollution caused by fumes from city buses. Anybody who drives behind buses here must be horrified at the filthy fumes emitted into the atmosphere. I question whether there is any control over transport pollution, particularly from buses. Something should be done to clean up the buses because they are contributing enormously to pollution. I hope that in the future environmental impact assessments will be carried out in areas of development, be it industrial development, major factories or even suburban development.

During my childhood I lived in Dundrum, an area I now represent. The whole landscape from Dundrum to the mountains, where school children once went for picnics and walks, is now another suburbia and is mostly very badly developed. Environmental impact assessments are very important in finding out the effects of development and buildings in such areas.

I welcome the provision in section 76 of what is called eco-labelling. This is intended to give clear guidance to consumers and enable them to become familiar with quality goods which are environmentally friendly. This is a very good provision because at present consumers are being exploited as regards labelling, purely for commercial reasons. The provision in this regard is very well drafted and, I believe, will be effective.

I concur with Deputy Bell's views regarding litter from fast food outlets. This litter is a blight on cities, and something should be done about the matter. We are always saying here that something should be done but I wonder if there can be some control in this regard so that such a forest of litter is not created. I wish the Bill well. I know it is very much welcomed. The debate has been very constructive and informative. I look forward to the development of the agency and its success in the future.

Speaking on behalf of the Progressive Democrats I would like to begin by emphasising the deep pride that our party feel with the introduction of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill to the Oireachtas by our colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Mary Harney. Deputy Harney has pursued this matter with enormous courage and conviction. She has very rightly earned the respect and admiration of everybody who has spoken here this afternoon and, I have no doubt, of all the people who have spoken on the Bill during its passage through the House so far.

In contrast to the events of recent weeks, this legislation reflects very well on the political process. As far back as January 1987 in the policy document, An Ireland Worth Living In, we in the Progressive Democrats sought the establishment of a specialised Environmental Protection Agency. In the negotiations on the Programme for Government held prior to our entry to Government in 1989 the Progressive Democrats secured a commitment to the establishment of such an agency. Today we are debating the detailed proposals for this agency which will shortly be established. This Bill therefore is living proof that politics can work, that policies developed in opposition can be brought forward into Government and that commitments given can be and are honoured. This of course is a success which is mirrored in many of the areas of the 1989 Programme for Government. It is in this spirit that we pursued the recent negotiations on a joint programme of action for the next two years. That programme is now in place and it is with great confidence that I look forward to the implemenation of so many of the aspects of that programme in the lifetime of this Government and beyond.

This Bill thus far has been characterised by an open-minded and inclusive approach which has been unmatched in recent times. In advance of the publication of the draft legislation consultations and discussions were held with interested parties throughout the country. That same approach continued in the debate on the Bill in Seanad Éireann where an extraordinary total of 461 amendments were discussed and a total of 111 amendments were agreed. I have no doubt that the same approach will be adopted in this House leading to consensus on the legislation. As a result we will have a Bill capable of dealing with the very serious problems of environmental protection not alone in the years ahead but well into the next century, a Bill of which we can all be proud and in which the Minister, Deputy Harney, can take particular pride.

This legislation is timely. Ever since our original proposal for such an agency in the early months of 1987, there has been increasing concern for the environment, to the point that it is now one of the top priorities on the political agenda. This rise in public concern has been mirrored, and no doubt encouraged, by the growing threats to the environment from industry, changes in agricultural practices and from bad habits in both urban and rural Ireland.

Some might argue that because of the pressing economic problems confronting the country, environmental protection is somewhat of a luxury. This approach is wrong. The environment remains this country's greatest and most valuable natural resource but, like all such precious resources, it is finite and has to be preserved and protected, not alone for its own sake but because of the positive impact that a wholesome environment can have on the health of our people, young and old, and on the economic future of the country. At this point, I wish to join Deputy Fennell in complimenting the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, on the great work she has done in combating the smog problem in Dublin. I have no doubt that her efforts were a major factor in alleviating the problems experienced by old people in particular in previous years during the bad months of November, December and January, when the smog hit the city with the same detrimental effect as the Black Plague.

Sometimes we tend to think of the environment in connection with industry because that is the way the public debate has developed. However, we should never underestimate the importance of good clean air to the physical as well as the emotional health of our people. I am encouraged by the progress that has been made to date.

However, to return to the argument that this emphasis on environmental protection is just a luxury, that approach is far too short-sighted and simplistic. Environmental protection and improvement is more than just an aesthetic discipline to be pursued by those who are sometimes described as the middle classes. It is of key importance to our long term economic prospects. It is important to stress that, whether in the area of tourism or of attracting the growing number of clean industries seeking out new areas in which to locate, a clean environment will be a key factor in our future success in those two areas.

At present we enjoy the reputation of having one of the finest and cleanest environments in Europe. Our reputation is of great benefit when we seek the very badly needed foreign investment to create the jobs we so critically need at present. The reality, however, is that we cannot take any great credit for our environment because fortunately we completely escaped the industrial revolution and the consequent industrial development of the late 18th and 19th centuries which so scarred the face of our neighbouring country. We can be grateful that we escaped it but we certainly cannot be complacent because our environment is a result of an accident of economic history. I will not dwell further on this point.

We have no grounds for being complacent about the environment. In Cork more than in any other county, we have had bitter experience of the damage that can be done to the environment by the introduction of new industries which were put in place without proper provision being made from the start to ensure that those industries did not impact adversely on the environment. The bitter and divisive controversy which has raged in Cork in relation to the local harbour has been a lesson to all of us. I hope at this stage that the lesson has been well and truly learned, and no other area will have to be subject to the same degree of legitimate concern and resulting controversy to which the Cork region has been subjected. We have now emerged from that controversy. The very justifiable fears of even the most fastidious environmentalists have now been allayed. If they have not been allayed to date the provisions of the Bill should do so. I have no doubt that the Minister of State will bring the same degree of energy, vigour and commitment to implementing the provisions of this Bill as she brought to its introduction in both Houses of the Oireachtas. I have no doubt that all the fears of environmental groups in the Cork area will be laid to rest and that prospective industries will not be called upon to pay the price for careless and dirty industries of the past. I hope new industries will not be penalised because of the bad practices of the past. We can now proceed in a proper manner to attract more industry to the Cork region, safe and secure in the knowledge that the highest environmental standards will apply from the start and that all industries will be monitored regularly to ensure that there is no lapse. We can now enter a happier phase of development around Cork harbour. That is my realistic hope because I have been fully reassured that proper provision has been made in the Bill.

It is my wish that in future we will not see objections to planning developments not based on facts but stemming from unfounded and unthought out fears. Such objections are very damaging to industries with a good track record. Most fairminded people were very taken aback recently by objections to the proposed extension of the Scherring Plough factory in Brinny, near Bandon, County Cork. That company since their inception had set the highest standards for themselves and maintained them. They had an extraordinarily good track record. However, they were the target of unfair and unfounded objections. I am glad the objections were withdrawn finally and I hope we have seen the end of such objection. Of course, we welcome objections founded on fact but objections founded on fears or something intangible can only be destructive and detrimental in the long term.

I would like to comment on the proposed Enviromental Protection Agency. Sufficient funding should be made available to give teeth to this legislation so that it will be effective from the start. There is little point in having good legislation on the Statute Book unless it is enforced fully from the beginning. A key element in ensuring that the aims and objectives of the Bill will be met is that proper funding is made available from the start. In that respect I have no doubt that the Minister, Deputy Harney, will battle long and hard, and successfully I hope, to ensure that that degree of funding is made available. If the funding is not made available we will have the highest aspirations but not the kind of Bill envisaged by the Minister.

The question relating to personnel is equally important. I believe that the degree of transparency and openness that the Minister intends for the new agency will go a long way towards ensuring confidence in the agency and trust in its objectivity and fairness. Inevitably, however, the reputation of the new body will rest greatly on the calibre of the people charged with its operation. I take great heart from the fact that from the outset the agency will be independent of Government, local authorities and other vested interests. That is a key element in ensuring the success of the agency. Certainly the method of appointment of the director-general and the other full-time directors through an independent selection committee is one that is to be welcomed and is a very good and strong provision in the Bill.

I should like to speak about the location of the agency. A previous Cork speaker, Deputy Barry, pleaded with the Minister that the agency be located in Cork. All I can say is that I support that plea.

Maybe we shall get a Minister as well.

If we do, all the better. If we get a Minister for the Environment perhaps it would be better again. Nonetheless, in the context of this Bill and irrespective of what happens in other arenas, I again plead with the Minister to give full consideration to the benefits of locating the Environmental Protection Agency in Cork. Because of the recent history of Cork, because of the degree of environmental awareness that now exists in the city and the county, because of the large number of chemical industries — very sensitive industries — located in the area, because of the proximity of University College Cork with its capacity to research these matters, and because of what is now a very good environmental group within Cork County Council, the very efficient and effective members of Cork County Council who deal with environmental matters, Cork is very well placed to act as the ideal location for the agency. If it were to be located in Cork we could take fresh hope in its effectiveness.

The environment is the sum total of a great many more things than the conflict between industry and environmental awareness groups that I have just described. The issue is much broader than that. The Bill is most comprehensive, encompassing all of the issues involved with the environment. There is no doubt that in many places and in many areas we are most careless about our environment. We are either unconscious or uncaring of the damage we do every day in several small ways — small ways that add up to a very big blemish on our environment.

Litter on the streets, particularly on our city streets, is one such manifestation. When travelling through the country this summer during my holidays I was strongly struck by the way small towns and villages are kept and maintained. I was impressed by their beauty and by the enormous effort that is put in by local communities to plant flowers, window boxes and hanging baskets, to improve shop fronts and shop front signs and generally to upgrade and beautify their environment. I noticed that a major improvement had taken place in rural Ireland, in the villages and towns, during the past ten years. Sadly, that is not so in some of the suburbs of our cities. I do not know the reason but what is happening and the careless manner in which litter is strewn all over suburbs in the cities is a national scandal.

It points perhaps to a great lack in our education system — and there I use education in its broadest sense — that we are so careless of our environment, that somehow we believe it is the corporation's business to clean up the streets. But what about those who dirty and despoil the streets? Do they feel in any way that it is their street, their estate, their suburb, their city or their country? They do not seem to, but they must. I agree with Deputy Brady who spoke earlier in the debate that there is great scope for an enhanced educational approach to be taken in relation to our environment.

Our environment is the most precious thing we have and I believe it will be an even more important issue in the years ahead. Our environment says something about our self-respect — it is a very public statement about ourselves, about our standards and our self-respect. If we cannot maintain our streets and keep them litter-free, if we cannot keep our beaches bottle-free, can-free, litter-free and disposable nappy-free, then there is something fundamentally wrong with us, something that will have to be righted very quickly.

It will take somebody with the charisma of Minister Harney to reach out to the people and put before them a vision of a better Ireland, a cleaner Ireland, a more attractive Ireland, an Ireland of which the young and old can be proud. The environment could be a major unifying force and rallying point in the country at the moment. We could all, young and old, come together as a people acting in our own communities, with every community doing its bit to try to improve the environment and make our streets, towns and cities cleaner and more attractive places in which to live, work, grow up and grow old. That could be done, but I think it will happen only if we have the kind of leadership of which the Minister is capable.

I wish the Minister all the luck in the world in getting the Bill passed, in getting its provisions put in place and in getting the agency up and running. I think it was Deputy Bell who said it was fortuitous that it is a woman who is attempting to do all this and on the scale on which it is now being attempted. I think that is true, too. The country now needs a woman's hand, a hand that would act for the benefit of the country, and those benefits would be visible in a very short time. Several things have to be done, however, and the old attitudes simply will not take us through the remainder of this century or into the next.

Again, I wish to speak about Cork. We talk about our fine harbour — it is one of the finest harbours in the world — but is it not a scandal that we still release raw sewage into the waters of Cork harbour? Is it not a scandal, when children want to swim in the sea that in certain winds raw sewage drifts onto the beach? Is it not true that a proper sewage treatment plant will have to be provided sooner rather than later? I ask the Minister, even though this is not, strictly speaking, her Department, to use her influence to ensure that proper financial provision is made to enable that to happen. The argument for clean air in Cork harbour has almost been won, I think, but the battle for clean water has yet to begin. I ask the Minister not to overlook that point.

I consider the Bill to be comprehensive legislation that will be beneficial for this country well into the next century. I compliment the Minister and wish her good luck in the implementation of its provisions. It would be my hope that we will clearly see its benefits very quickly after its enactment.

I am pleased that, at long last, this Bill is before the House. It is indeed timely since there has been tremendous public consciousness of the importance of our environment, the necessity to legislate for its protection and provide proper controls.

I regret that when Deputy Shatter introduced a similar Bill in the House over two years ago it was voted down by the Government. As a relatively new Member of the House I regret there has been much talk about Dáil reform — strongly propagated by the Progressive Democrats — whereas a Bill such as Deputy Shatter's could not have been accepted, a classic example of Government hypocrisy on this issue. Indeed, it is a sad reflection on the type of politics engaged in by the present Government.

The protection of our environment is not new in that there have been procedures implemented for its protection over the past few years. I must pay tribute to local authorities who, with limited resources, have endeavoured to implement policies to protect our environment. Not too long ago many of us recalled the many fish kills that occurred, the subject of much publicity with blame being apportioned to industrialists and farmers alike. The position in that respect appears to have been improved in recent times, with industrialists and farmers making a valuable contribution to the improvement of our environment. Many farmers have spent substantial amounts of money on pollution control measures.

Finance, by way of grant, has been provided to counteract their pollution problems. However, it must be remembered that farmers are labouring in difficult financial circumstances at present so that, even to attempt to control pollution, causes them a certain degree of financial hardship. Nonetheless they deserve to be complimented on their recent attempts to control pollution.

Were I to criticise one aspect of such anti-pollution grants it would be that farmers with non-farm income have been debarred from eligibility. This factor should be recognised, as it was in the past, in relation to farmers in disadvantaged areas, when farmers with non-farm income were precluded from availing of such disadvantaged area grants, although that anomaly has since been eliminated. I should like to see a similiar position obtain in relation to the anti-pollution grants. If we are serious about controlling pollution we must give as much encouragement as possible, especially to farmers, in their endeavours to resolve whatever pollution problems they may experience.

With our prevailing unemployment rate there is pressure on us to attract overseas industries, by way of a positive attitude to encourage industrialists to establish projects here. However, we must be careful that we do not frighten them away through excessive zeal in relation to anti-pollution controls. Deputy Quill maintained that perhaps there had been such an over-zealous attitude taken, particular in the Cork area. Perhaps emotions take over but we must remember that, at the end of the day, one cannot eat scenery.

The recent innovation on the part of the Department of the Environment and local authorities to produce environmental impact assessments is most welcome. One main industrial sector targeted by the IDA has been the electronics sector, regarded as a clean industry. However, we need to address what happens to waste products from such industries and how they impact on our environment. For example, are we taking adequate precautions to prevent such detrimental impact?

Tourism is most important for our economy, targeted as being a main growth industry by the present Government, and rightly so. We must ask ourselves if we are doing sufficient to prevent our countryside from being littered with abandoned cars, rubbish bags and so on. In my local authority area — which I am sure is no different from others — we have an environmental officer in charge of such litter, prepared to prosecute if necessary. Such deterrent is invaluable because, if we are to tackle the pollution problems — with people being sufficiently irresponsible to abandon cars and dump rubbish — we must acknowledge that desperate practices warrant desperate remedies. Yet we see rubbish dumped in bags in bogs, forests and occasionally on the roadside. What can be done to control or counteract this practice? In schools it is important to endeavour to inculcate in students an appreciation of their environment. I am not so sure that we are succeeding in that endeavour at present or whether a greater commitment is not called for in this respect.

Those of us living near towns where there are late night discos and fast food restaurants will have seen the debris from such outlets strewn on approach roads and on the streets of the towns themselves, a practice engaged in primarily by young people who frequent such places. Many of us will have read tourists criticism in provincial papers, not in relation to the scenery but rather with regard to our attitude to litter, which acts as a deterrent to many from returning here. We must implement a quick clean up in this respect.

I was pleased to hear Deputy Quill refer to the changes implemented in our towns and the improvement of our environment generally. It would be remiss of me not to refer to the Tidy Towns Competition held over the years, which has acted as a stimulus to many townspeople to provide a vibrant, active Tidy Towns Association with the objective of improving their environment. Here I want to pay tribute to many towns in my county which have been enormously successful in this regard, towns such as Adare and Galbally. I must compliment the local people who put in so much voluntary work to improve their environment. A classic example of people's commitment to their town is that of the people in Adare, a commitment that will be evident to anybody driving through that town. I would go so far as to say that one would feel a sense of guilt at dropping even a piece of paper on the streets there. Its people are aware of the beauty of the town and are conscious of the need to preserve it. It would appear that that is the case in many other towns. Therefore, it is true that there was generally a consciousness of the need to preserve our environment even prior to the introduction of this Bill. Nonetheless, there is a long road ahead before we can acknowledge that all have a healthy respect for their environment.

There has been much concern voiced recently about the quality of our tap drinking water. As the Minister of State will be aware, much of our drinking water is extracted from rivers and, in order to extract that water, aluminium sulphate or alum is added. There is need for great caution in the use of this chemical. We must also ensure that the right type of equipment is provided and properly maintained for such water extraction. One cannot over-emphasise the necessity to have good quality tap water available to all. A recent survey undertaken demonstrated, from samples tested, that many local authorities were exceeding EC minimum guidelines and, in many cases, even the maximum guidelines. We all know that one mineral not required by the human body is aluminium and that there has been a recent connection, not yet proven, between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease. I do not want to be sensational about this but we must endeavour to extract high quality water in order to allay any health fears held by people generally.

Obviously, in analysing the provisions of this Bill, I compared them with those of Deputy Shatter's Bill introduced two years ago. I was disappointed that the Minister did not take cognisance of a recommendation embodied in Deputy Shatter's Bill, for the establishment of an environmental committee of this House, the necessity for which is obvious. It is incumbent on all of us in this House to be well informed of what is taking place with regard to environmental issues. Perhaps the Minister would address the feasibility of having that recommendation in Deputy Shatter's Bill incorporated into this one. In order to function effectively the proposed Environmental Protection Agency must have the requisite manpower. Will the manpower be delegated from county councils, thus denuding them of appropriate staff? Will resources be provided to attract the proper technical expertise? Some Bills such as the Video Recordings Bill and the Marine Institute Bill have not been implemented effectively due to the lack of financial resources to provide manpower. It is essential to provide adequate resources if this Bill is to achieve its laudable objectives.

The Bill also states that local authorities should produce a report every three years showing how effectively they are monitoring the environment. Why not produce such a report every year? It is ludicrous to suggest that an environmental report should be produced every five years. How effective will that be? Five years is a very long time.

There are also provisions relating to noise and smell. I am a member of Foynes Harbour Board. We are concerned about complaints from residents about noise and smell. We as a board cannot take the generosity of the community for granted indefinitely and are trying to deal with the situation by taking certain environmental measures. There is a lack of precise definition in the Bill in dealing with these problems.

This is a most important Bill. I am confident that, with modification and serious commitment by the Government to its implementation, the legislation will certainly help in the future to protect our environment. We would all compliment the Minister of State on the gigantic task she undertook in producing this legislation.

I welcome this ambitious Bill and compliment the Minister on bringing it before the House. Groups throughout the country, industrialists, environmentalists and members of the general public have been crying out for such a Bill which will help get to grips with the environmental problems arising from industry.

Some of the fears expressed about possible damage caused to the environment by industry are exaggerated but others may be well founded. Damage has been caused over the past 50 years due to the absence of stringent measures to control industrialisation. Industries were established without knowledge of what they entailed and their possible effect on the environment and on human health. Some industries which gave good employment were dirty industries. I worked for 30 years in the Dunlop factory. Probably it would be impossible to establish such a plant today due to the number of restrictions which would be imposed. There were other industries in the Cork area which would be classed as dirty, but jobs were scarce and people had no option but to take any opportunity to work. The interests of the environment were sacrificed. Some industrialists did not believe it was important to safeguard the health of workers or of the public. Much damage was done to health where I worked. Eight years following the closure of Dunlops former workers are still awaiting compensation for damage done to their hearing due to the absence of noise controls. That was before noise was recognised as a pollutant which causes damage to health.

It is, of course, necessary to achieve a balance. That is why it is important to have some agency to provide back-up services in the assessment of industry. In Cork we have the ridiculous position that the Sandoz plant is half built and is yet the subject of a High Court action. Our system seems to have fallen apart. This must be remedied as soon as possible and the provisions of this Bill may help. When genuine objections are raised, they should be considered with the case put by the industrialists and a decision should be made which will be acceptable to everyone. That will not cut across anybody's constitutional rights.

This Bill will be useless unless the necessary resources are provided for its implementation. During the last session we discussed at length the Sea Pollution Bill. I am apprehensive about its application of that Bill. It brought us into line with the MARPOL agreement and the provisions will dovetail with this legislation. The Minister for the Marine indicated that the Sea Pollution Bill would be put into effect immediately. It is ludicrous that ships coming into our territorial waters carrying sewage should be prevented from discharging the sewage in our waters and have to discharge it in the port, following which the local authority dump it into the sea. Unless the agency are given the necessary funding to implement the legislation the Minister will be wasting her time. I do not believe the people will accept this legislation unless the agency are given muscle to implement it. I ask the Minister to look at this aspect. If the necessary funding is not provided, this Bill will be a flop. Having read both the explanatory memorandum and the Bill, I believe local authorities, harbour boards, industrialists and environmental groups will welcome it. However, I want to repeat that, without the necessary finance to enforce the legislation, the Minister will be wasting her time.

I want to refer briefly to some other points. Reference has been made already to Cork. I believe the agency will have a major role to play in this area. For far too long various groups in Cork have been arguing about why industries should be located in certain areas. Giving the agency a role in this area would put an end to such arguments. By providing the necessary expertise the agency would be able to do much valuable work attracting industries which will have to comply with certain rules and regulations. It is very important to spell out clearly the rules and regulations so that there is no waste of resources, and no overlapping of powers given to local authorities, the Department of the Marine and the agency.

I should like to refer to the proposed advisory committee. I think the Minister has indicated that this committee will have a certain amount of muscle. I have been a member of a health board advisory committee for many years and, to be honest, there were times when I felt I was wasting my time because nobody seemed to take any notice of what we were doing. However, I would have to say that the people who worked on health board advisory committees throughout the country did a great deal of work at enormous cost to themselves. The most glaring example of this was the advisory committee in the Southern Health Board area who were, I believe, disbanded by the health board, but who kept on working for another four years. The dedicated members of that committee continued to carry out their work without receiving any expenses because they believed there was a need for this work. Those are the type of dedicated people we need on advisory committees. From reading the legislation, it would appear that the Minister has in mind setting up an advisory committee who will be able to guide the agency and the Minister of the day on any decisions he or she will have to make. I hope the Minister will touch on these important points when replying to the debate.

The appointment of public representatives to the advisory committee is a good idea and the Minister should look very closely at this suggestion. Some people believe the appointment of public representatives from different political parties to committees can lead to in-fighting and argument. I do not think this is the case. The appointment of public representatives to the committee of which I was a member for many years led to very good debate and worthwhile proposals which the Minister for Health, in fairness to him, took on board. Even though that committee had been disbanded, he replied to their submissions. I hope the Minister will give the proposed advisory committee the necessary teeth to ensure that the agency will have the power to carry out their work properly.

As spokesperson on the Marine for my party, I have to say that the agency should be given powers in regard to coastal protection. We seem to be very lax in this regard. Every winter storms cause unbelievable damage to coastal regions, yet we do not have any coastal protection policy. While I accept that the agency may not be responsible for looking after harbours and sea walls, most local authorities do not have the necessary resources to do this work. It is a crying shame that in 1991 we still do not have a policy on coastal protection. As an island nation we should be making strong representations to the EC for funding to enable us to carry out this work. Many villages and towns along our coast have already been damaged and perhaps the Environmental Protection Agency would have a role to play in this regard.

If local authorities and the agency are not given the necessary resources to carry out their work properly we will be wasting our time. I believe the Minister is sincere in this regard. Over the past number of years she has shown that she has environmental issues at heart. I want to pay tribute to her for the work she has done in this area. Fisheries boards have not been given the necessary funding to protect our multi-million pound salmon industry. It seems to be a case of penny wise, pound foolish, when we curtail measures to protect our rivers and seas. I repeat, the Minister will be wasting her time unless the necessary funding is provided to enable the agency to enforce the provisions of the Bill.

I wish the Minister every success in putting this legislation through the House. Many amendments were made to the Bill in the Seanad and we will look very closely at it on Committee Stage to see if it can be strengthened. I believe most people would be in favour of the powers being given to the agency when it comes to high-tech and chemical industries where we seem to be at loggerheads at present. Groups of people come into meetings lobbying that their industry is not a dirty industry and will not damage the environment. The environmental groups say the opposite. That is why I am anxious that this Bill should have a speedy passage through the House. We cannot afford to be reluctant to get to grips with the problem of job creation. I say this deliberately because, while jobs are important in Ireland at present, because of record figures of unemployment, nevertheless what we are planning will probably obtain for the next 200 to 300 years. That is why I say this legislation is probably one of the most important Bills that will come before this House not only in this session but in the life of this Dáil.

I wish the Minister every success with the Bill. I am sure she will accept the goodwill of the House when amendments are put down to this legislation, which is in everyone's interest — the Minister, the Government, and certainly the general public, industrialists and environmentalists.

I suppose if one really wanted to be in a ministry and have the responsibility of doing something in terms of legislating for the future, one could not serve in a better Department than the Department of the Environment. I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, every success in the implementation of this Bill. The Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990, should form the basis and bedrock of a protection agency that will carry us through to the end of the next century. It will obviously have to be amended, updated and dealt with in various ways as time goes on, because the Bill is not perfect but it is a start and an important start. I wish her well in seeing it implemented and, particularly, in seeing that the agency is given the necessary resources to ensure that the common denominator of thought which people in the Seanad and in the Dáil brought here from various organisations, personal interpretations and so on from around the country will result in appropriate action.

I was interested in the manual, Environmental Strategy for Europe 1991, of which the Minister will be aware. Those who participated at the meetings in Rotterdam had a common goal in that they saw a direct relationship between a good environment and good business and between economic development and environmental protection. They also shared a common concern that demographic pressure and mass poverty could endanger long term sustainability. That is true and brings us back to the introduction of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. If the resources are not available to ensure that its provisions are implemented then it will be another item of legislation without teeth.

I have listened to a great number of speakers and read a great deal of their contributions. Each public representative coming in here has his or her particular priorities in terms of environmental development. Many people have dealt with sewage effluent, silage and other agricultural effluent, industrial waste and so on, all fundamental to the development of our country. The Government's plan is for the doubling of tourist numbers in the years ahead but without the necessary resources to implement it.

I represent one of the last unspoilt constituencies of this country on the western outpost of Western Europe. The legislation now going through the House will have a distinct bearing on the quality of the environment in the west over the next 50 years. Many issues about which people are confused are now raising their head. Ignorance of the law and its consequences, and ignorance of the consequences of various developments cause a great fear among people throughout the land. For instance, areas of scientific interest have been referred to by numerous speakers. In County Mayo alone there are over 180 areas of scientific interest. What is an area of scientific interest and who designated it? It is interesting to note that the elected representatives of the people of County Mayo both on the last local authority and the present local authority are ignorant in many ways of the locations and the reasons areas have been selected as being of scientific interest. It is a cause of confusion to farmers and farming folk who on the one hand, are advised to sell their ground to planting agencies or to avail of private grants themselves to plant it, they find, when the opportunity of a sale of land arises, it cannot be availed of because the area has been designated by the Office of Public Works as being one of scientific interest. There is need for either the Department or the proposed new agency to advise local authority members of what is involved. The Dutch may well spend £30 million in attempting to create a raised bog in Holland. Naturally, they will fail in the context of the raised bogs which we have but they realised their value once they had disappeared. The Minister of State in her opening address said:

Suffice it to say that the strongest economy in Europe is Germany and it is no coincidence that the Germans consider strict environmental controls to be an essential ingredient in their continued prosperity.

That is true. The Germans have learned a very harsh lesson throughout two world wars, throughout massive industrial expansion followed by massive industrial pollution. Obviously we will not be faced with similar problems on the west coast because it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract any outside industry. People have got to rely on their initiative and hope that the development of indigenous industry will bear economic fruit and personal prosperity for our people. In that context confusion again abounds because these same people who own lands that have been designated as being areas of scientific interest are equally aware that other areas similar in nature to theirs, under the European Directive, can be deemed to be areas of scientific interest or environmentally sensitive areas. They are equally aware, in terms of environmentally sensitive areas, that compensation exists under that directive. They genuinely feel that if the European powers-that-be under that directive, and if the Department with responsibility in Ireland, wished to have these grounds taken over and preserved as either environmentally sensitive areas or areas of scientific interest, then funding under the directive should be made avilable as compensatory amounts for the owners of such property. In dealing with rural folk the Minister is well aware that, if it is explained clearly in the beginning and if the options available are also explained, there will be much less hindrance, much more understanding in terms of preserving our environment for future generations. It has been said that we do not inherit our natural environment from our ancestors but rather that we borrow it from our children. That is true.

In the implementation of this Bill I am concerned that the Minister of State should get every conceivable help from her senior colleagues in Cabinet. If the financial constraints on the Government to balance the books in terms of the Programme for Government drawn up recently mean that there will be something of the order of £400 million in cut-backs at the end of next January, surely this places a significant burden on the Minister of State, and on her senior Minister whoever that might be tomorrow, to obtain the necessary moneys so that the controls, advice and monitoring system of this agency can be implemented? In that context, it is critical that, in preparation for the allocation of funds for 1993-98 under the Structural Funds, our Government seek as much as possible in order to preserve and protect our natural environment.

In 1941 Archbishop Walsh of the diocese of Tuam said that because of the mineral wealth beneath our soil there should not be any need for any able-bodied male to emigrate. Fifty years on, his successor, Archbishop Cassidy, under enormous pressure and having deeply considered the case, has been moved to say that while there may be gold on the slopes of Croagh Patrick it was not as valuable as the tradition of the mountain in the minds and hearts of the people. What does this mean in the context of the implementation of this Bill? Last night, in the final drafting of the county development plan for County Mayo, councillors decided to ban, in that plan, all mineral extraction under the Minerals Development Act, 1940, in a specified area ranging from Croagh Patrick to the Delphi Doo Lough valley area. This area was given protection in part by the Minister for Energy last year.

In balancing modern technology and sophisticated methods of mining against the possible economic potential and availability of long term jobs one is confused. Sources tell me that there could be up to £800 million of gold mineral wealth in that region. If that is the case and the county council ban all mineral extraction, what options remain? Who has the dominating influence in this area? Under the mining Acts the Minister for Energy is responsible for the development of mineral extraction throughout the land. In the last two years environmental impact studies have had to be carried out before mining could take place. If a mining company apply to a local authority for planning permission to extract minerals from under the soil, having carried out an environmental impact study and deemed that there would be no great damage to the local environment, what is the role of the agency? What is the legal effect of the development plan prepared by the elected representatives of that local authority as against the constitutional responsibility of the Minister for Energy of the day under the Minerals Development Act, 1940?

If one weighs the development in terms of jobs and the boost to the local economy as against the preservation of the natural environment, where will the balance lie? In terms of the applications who has the dominating influence? If concillors ban mineral extraction in an area, where will the resources come from to develop tourism to attract double the number of tourists in the years ahead? Will the Minister clarify that. I will raise the point on Committee Stage.

Many speakers have referred to the epidemic of littering throughout the country. Under this Bill the Minister should emphasise that the desecration of our countryside by litter is a social sin. There is not any scene as appalling as tourists walking beaches and in isolated areas of immense natural beauty that have been destroyed by plastic bags and rubbish of all description thrown there mainly by our citizens. It is incomprehensible that people will drive ten, 15 or 20 miles to dump rubbish rather than avail of local services or of free entry to local authority dumping areas. Every children's programme shown on RTE or broadcast on local radio stations should educate children in an anti-litter campaign. Television and radio programmes have a huge influence on young minds. The Minister should ensure that her colleague, the Minister for Education, should encourage every teacher and parent to tell children that the indiscriminate dumping of litter destroys somebody else's property as well as their own.

On one of my first visits to the Department of Education when I was Minister of State at that Department one of the architects told me that on his first job in Geneva, full of pride at being a young Irishman in that job, after the war, he walked down a street and tipped the ash of a cigar on the street. He had not gone ten paces when a lady tapped him on the shoulder and said, "in our country we do not do that". The Minister should leave as her legacy an imprint on everybody's mind that littering is a social sin. Until people remind each other of what is involved things will not improve a great deal.

The Minister, and other speakers, referred to sewage outfalls, sewage treatment works and so on. Such works are enormously expensive. In the Clew Bay, which Thackeray described as being one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen, it is only now that the preliminary plans for the treatment of effluent are being finalised. It really means that if the bay itself is to be restored to pristine condition there must be a very long outfall because of the geography of the land. This means a much greater cost to the taxpayer, the ratepayer and the local authority.

Debate adjourned.