Environmental Protection: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to institute sufficient measures to ensure that the Irish environment is adequately protected and enhanced, particularly in relation to:

the early enactment of climate change legislation promised by the Government but not yet delivered;

the quality of our rivers and our water supply;

the maintenance and improvement of our public beaches; and

remedial measures to address hazardous waste sites, including at Haulbowline, County Cork.

I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I note the Government has tabled an amendment to our motion which broadly welcomes the progress it claims to have made. However, we cannot accept the amendment for the reasons that I will outline presently.

Our environment is one of our most precious assets. Whenever people speak about why they like to live here they describe the wonderful scenery, the beauty of our countryside and the quality of our air. One of our biggest industries is tourism. Research into why people come here and keep returning suggests that it is because of the quality of our environment.

Like the environment in other countries, however, our environment is under threat from a number of sources. In the course of this debate my colleagues and I will discuss some of the reasons for this threat. Senator Bacik will outline how climate change is impacting on our environment and why the failure of the Government to enact legislation is making it difficult to ensure our country is adequately protected from climate change. Senator Ryan will speak about water and beach quality in Ireland, focusing on north County Dublin and Fingal. Our spokesperson on the marine, Senator McCarthy, will speak about the protection of our coast and islands and the problem of hazardous waste sites such as Haulbowline, County Cork. I do not doubt the Minister will respond that he is doing his part and that the programme for Government will deal with the challenges ahead. We do not accept this contention for several reasons.

Nearly three years ago Senator Bacik published the Climate Protection Bill 2007, No. 13 on today's Order Paper. The Labour Party also published a similar Bill in the other House but there has been no action from the Government on this issue, despite repeated promises from the Minister and his colleagues in this House, including Senator Boyle. Last year I attended the climate change summit in Copenhagen. When I asked people what their governments were doing to combat the impact of climate change, I was embarrassed that our Government had failed to act. I left Copenhagen disappointed, like many others, at the inaction on the part of the world's governments.

The amendment advises us that the Government intends to publish the heads of a climate change Bill. Given that such a Bill has been repeatedly promised in the past three years, I do not know if this is sufficient guarantee that we will see legislation this side of the summer recess. Like the legislation for a mayor of Dublin, perhaps Senator Boyle wants the measure but has failed to convince his Government partners. This is an area where Ireland could have led the way but all we have seen is inaction even though Senator Boyle's party is in government. A perfectly good Bill sits on the Order Paper but rather than agree to introduce it, the Government chose to wait for more greenhouse gases to be released and for climate change to get worse. All that has been produced by this Government in regard to climate change is hot air.

We have seen further inaction in the area of beach management and coastal erosion. I am lucky to come from the east coast of the country, which is blessed with fine beaches such as Mornington, Bettystown, Stamullen and Gormanston. I play pitch and putt at Laytown Pitch and Putt Club which is clearly suffering the effects of climate change and the increasing incidence of severe storms. Unfortunately, the Government's failure to introduce legislation on climate change is accompanied by the absence of a strategy to mitigate the impact of coastal erosion. The policy seems to be to let it happen even if people lose their businesses or their homes. This is unacceptable and the Minister knows he and his party will be held to account for their inaction.

There is further inaction in regard to the management of our beaches and the achievement of blue flag status. This is a voluntary eco-label awarded to thousands of beaches in 40 countries across Europe and the world. The Blue Flag Programme contributes to sustainable development of beaches with strict criteria for with water quality and environmental management. As someone who uses the beaches of Gormanstown and Bettystown on a regular basis, I can see the need for additional funds if our beaches are to achieve and maintain blue flag status. We cannot expect local authorities to find the resources for this without support from central government which, after all, benefits from VAT and general tax revenue. It is up to central government to ensure local authorities have the resources required to ensure beaches are properly managed and tourists are attracted to the relevant areas as a result.

This applies equally to water quality and supply. Last week, while canvassing in the village of Stamullen in County Meath, I met a man who was at his wits' end as a result of regular outages of water supply, poor quality water and low water pressure. These problems have arisen because the Government is not taking sufficient measures to ensure an adequate water supply to our towns and villages. The problem is particularly acute in areas with growing populations. Measures must be taken to ensure water pressure and quality are adequate in these areas.

Measures are also required to address the issue of sites contaminated by hazardous waste. Senator McCarthy will speak in detail on this issue and I suspect Senator Boyle will also have a contribution to make on it, particularly on the issue of Haulbowline in County Cork where many residents are concerned about the level of hazardous waste. Fears were raised after a subcontractor involved in surface clearance at the Haulbowline site had claimed to have uncovered levels of a toxin, chromium six, which is said to come from the former Irish ISPAT steel plant at the site.

"Claimed" is the operative word.

The Senator will have an opportunity to speak to the motion. The chemical in question, also known as hexavalent chromium, causes cancer and is the same material against which US activist, Erin Brockovich, campaigned. For more than 60 years steel production on the Haulbowline site turned this small island in Cork Harbour into one of the most dangerous dumps in the country.

The Minister has indicated that he has been assured by his Department that people will not be exposed to health risks from hazardous waste in the area. He also met local residents to assure them of his commitment to assist them. I visited the site in the summer of 2008 and spent an evening attending a service in the church on the island and partaking of refreshments, before touring Haulbowline. During my visit I spoke to many local residents of Cobh, Crosshaven and other areas close to the island. The people of this part of County Cork want a baseline study carried out to identify exactly what health risks are posed by the island's hazardous waste. Despite the presence of the Green Party leader and Minister, Deputy Gormley, and the party chairman, Senator Boyle, action has not been taken in this matter. I understand the Minister approached the Minister for Health and Children, but she is not agreeable to having a baseline study carried out. I ask the Minister to clarify the position.

In summary, on a range of measures related to environmental protection and enhancement, including waste management, water quality, coastal erosion and climate change protection, the Government has failed to act. Despite assurances to the contrary and promises to address these matters, the record of the Government in general and the Green Party, in particular, speaks for itself. The Government has failed to deliver on environmental issues.

I welcome the Minister. It gives me great pleasure to second the motion. As Senator Hannigan stated, it addresses a number of environmental protection issues on which the Government has failed to deliver. This is a source of grave disappointment, particularly as the Green Party is in government. I note Senator Boyle is making a rueful face.

It is all very amusing. I am sure the Senator is disappointed.

I have always considered myself to be close to the Green Party. I am a red-green in the great tradition of many of the Green Party members in Germany, for example. The idea of a socialist-green alliance is a good one which makes sense on an ideological basis. It is very disappointing that the Green Party in government has failed to deliver in many areas of environmental protection. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Labour Party is holding the Government to account on this issue.

The Labour Party would like the Minister to provide answers beyond the somewhat cursory response provided in the amendment. We would like him to indicate what he intends to do on the specific issues we have identified and on which the Government has failed to deliver. These include the early enactment of climate change legislation, the quality of our rivers and water supply, the state of public beaches and hazardous waste sites.

The issue on which I will focus is climate change legislation. When will we see a climate change Bill? I note the amendment again promises — this is becoming tedious — that the heads of a Bill will shortly be published. Senator Hannigan referred to the timeline in this matter. When one examines the history of the promises made on climate change legislation, one sees just how poorly the Government is delivering on this commitment. There is political consensus across all parties and among the Independents on the need for climate change legislation which sets binding targets for carbon emission reductions for this and future Governments. There is clear agreement on this matter. As long ago as 2004, when Friends of the Earth launched in this country, we set the introduction of such legislation as a major priority. I declare my interest as a board member of Friends of the Earth Ireland.

In 2007 Friends of the Earth, with a range of other non-governmental organisations, launched the "Stop Climate Chaos" coalition which had, as its primary focus, the need for legislation on climate change. In October 2007 in this House I introduced the Climate Protection Bill 2007, the first climate legislation to be introduced in either House. The aim of the Bill was to set targets for reductions in emissions and it set a target of achieving a 3% reduction in each year from 2010 to 2050. At the time 2010 appeared sufficiently distant to enable us to introduce preparatory steps in advance. The aim was to have a 60% reduction on 1990 baseline levels by 2050, a target that was in line with Kyoto Protocol targets. The Bill place duties on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to produce an annual report to ensure these reduction targets were met and provided for a vote of no confidence in the Minister where he or she failed to deliver. At that point, the Bill was not voted down and has remained on the Order Paper for nearly three years on the basis that we will see the heads of a Government Bill which will do more or less the same as my Bill proposes.

In 2009 Deputy McManus introduced in the other House a climate change Bill on behalf of the Labour Party. That legislation would set somewhat more ambitious targets of 80% reductions in carbon emissions by 2050 and 30% by 2020. It would place firm duties on the Taoiseach to deliver the required reductions and report regularly to the Oireachtas and proposes the establishment of an independent climate change commission. Activity increased subsequent to the introduction of Deputy McManus's Bill. In October last year the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security published a comprehensive report on the case for climate change law and again produced the heads of a draft Bill which draws on best practice in other jurisdictions and would provide for binding targets over a number of years, as well as the establishment of an independent commission.

The environmental pillar of the social partners called for the introduction of climate change legislation and made a strong case in a document it published this week which I am sure the Minister has read and which argues that Irish legislation should follow the Scottish example of inscribing an ambitious reductions target for national emissions of at least 40% by 2020 using 1990 as the baseline level. The pillar has given us a clear framework for the legislation which it argues is essential. It states the 3% annual reduction target until 2020 is dangerously weak, that the legislation must have a binding 2020 target and that Ireland is responsible for an extremely high level of emissions. It also highlights our obligations to developing countries, an issue to which I will return.

Despite the consensus achieved, the high level of activity in this area and the various drafts of climate change legislation produced, we have still not seen the promised heads of a Bill from the Government. Not only is there agreement on the need for legislation but consensus has also been achieved on its content. The legislation must set targets, including targets for 2020 and 2050. Two weeks ago the Stop Climate Chaos coalition argued for a 95% reductions target for 2050 and a 40% reductions target by 2020. While there are some differences in the various drafts of a Bill as to what should be the targets, there is a clear consensus on the need to set targets for 2020 and 2050. There is also consensus on the need for an independent commission on climate change which would monitor and assess our progress in addressing climate change and provide advice for the Government and public bodies on how best to achieve the targets set.

The need for political accountability is another aspect on which there is agreement. Perhaps my suggestion two and a half years ago for a vote of no confidence was a somewhat radical one, but there is certainly other ways in which political accountability can be ensured, for example, through placing the duty to meet targets firmly on the shoulders of the Taoiseach as our 2009 Bill does and as the Oireachtas committee has argued.

There is consensus that this is not just a matter of domestic concern because Ireland's excessive emissions have a direct and ongoing effect most strongly on developing countries, much more strongly than on developed countries. Again that is widely recognised. Stop Climate Chaos has called for the Government to ensure it provides finance for developing countries to deal with climate change. This funding should not be taken from the overseas development aid commitment to reach 0.7% of national income. We must recognise our obligations on a global level as well as our national obligations to reduce our emissions. There is widespread consensus on the content of the Bill and the need for a Bill. There is growing international pressure and we know we have obligations not only to our fellow developed countries but also to developing countries. The European Union is pressing us to do this; it has been done in other countries.

Why has such consensus emerged? Legislation is seen as vital because this is a matter that is too important for political promises. Statutory commitments must be enshrined in law in order to bind not only the current Government but also future Governments. Legislation expresses all-party agreement in the best way. Nobody is opposed to the principles of the Bill. There may be some disagreement as to how ambitious the targets should be, but there is public consensus that targets must be set. Based on the Kyoto agreement we are obliged to meet our targets. The political commitments we gave in the Kyoto Protocol were simply not met and political promises on matters such as hospital waiting lists and school building are broken all too often. We know that political commitments alone are not enough. Other countries have already passed climate change legislation, notably our nearest neighbour, Britain, which passed legislation containing binding targets. The sky has not fallen in, but the sky may well fall in if we do not meet these targets because we all know the terrible consequences of global warming if we allow it to continue at its current rate.

In 2005 Fianna Fáil was described by a certain Deputy as "a huddle of gangsters spending taxpayers' money in a carbon casino, plotting the most conniving scams to dodge even the woefully inadequate Kyoto targets". The speaker, of course, was the Minister's colleague, Deputy Sargent, speaking in the Dáil. Judging by what has happened since, relationships between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have improved, of course. However, we need to ensure the Green Party and Fianna Fáil are held to account and that we are not simply spending money in a carbon casino by offsetting and not meeting targets. The best way to ensure we meet our targets is through binding legislation.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Seanad Éireann" and substitute the following:

"welcomes:

the progress made to date across a broad range of Government policies and programmes which serve to enhance significantly the protections afforded to the Irish environment;

the intention to publish, shortly, the Heads of the Climate Change Bill 2010, which will provide a statutory framework for the core national priority of major and continued reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the context of transition to a low carbon economy;

the suite of legislation introduced since 2007 to protect and improve water quality including giving statutory effect to the Water Framework Directive and the Bathing Water Directive; establishing an authorisation system for waste water treatment plant discharges; regulating for best practice in the management of nutrients in the agricultural sector; and supporting the enforcement of strengthened regulations governing the supply of drinking water;

the adoption of the first cycle of River Basin Management Plans to protect and improve water quality on a river basin district basis;

the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 supported by funding of over €500 million for 2010, building on similar levels of investment in recent years and reflecting environmental priorities identified on a River Basin Management Plan basis;

the continuing funding commitments to the EPA and local authorities towards the costs associated with environmental enforcement related activities;

the progress made to date in dealing with industrial legacy sites in a manner consistent with good practice and minimisation of risk to human health and the environment; and

the continued commitment to achieving the full delivery of those commitments in the renewed Programme for Government designed to support the objective of ensuring a high quality, robustly protected Irish environment.".

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. I reserve my right to speak later.

I welcome the opportunity to support the Government amendment and to set out for Members the work the Government consisting of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party has been advancing across a broad spectrum of issues to enhance and protect the environment.

A healthy environment is a prerequisite for a healthy society and economy. My party has had this viewpoint as a core value from the outset and has ensured that it is at the heart of Government policy. The protection of our environment is about more than Government policy. It is truly a collective, shared responsibility, which requires a significant degree of consensus if we are to achieve progress on the different issues and challenges that face us as a society. That type of collective approach has underpinned policy across a broad spectrum for several years. We are making substantial progress but we are not and cannot afford to be complacent because formidable challenges remain. Determination, targeted resources and well focused policy tools, supported by a strong commitment from all the stakeholders involved, are needed to maintain the momentum we have built.

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humankind and Government policy is set out in the national climate change strategy. Ireland will meet its target for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol through a series of national measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supplemented as necessary by the purchase of carbon units on the international market. Since 2007 when we entered government, we have introduced a series of fundamental measures aimed at transforming Ireland into a low-carbon economy and society. This transformation will take time, but it will make Ireland a healthier place and it will make our economy stronger, more competitive and more resilient to economic shocks from the outside.

The comprehensive measures introduced by the Green Party on climate change and renewable energy include a carbon levy, money from which has been used to fund renewable energy projects and reductions in employer taxes; a reform of our motor taxation system, saving car buyers in excess of €5,000 on fuel efficient cars, resulting in more than three quarters of new cars bought being low-emission cars; in excess of €100 million being spent on grant aid for people to insulate their homes; a set of energy policies which mean we are ahead of target in our aim to have 40% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020; tax breaks for companies who buy energy efficient equipment; and tax breaks and incentives for research and development into new green technologies.

I listened to Senator Hannigan talking about the Copenhagen summit. If he were to listen to the people who spoke in Copenhagen and if he spoke to the NGOs, he would know that Ireland is seen as highly progressive on climate change. Many countries have not succeeded in introducing a carbon levy. It was abandoned by France which did not have the political courage to proceed. I say to Senator Bacik that I find it very difficult to stomach having to listen to this sort of rhetoric coming out and yet at the same time I look at leaflets from my constituency colleague, Deputy Quinn, having a go at me for introducing a carbon levy. I find that sort of speaking out of both sides of one's mouth totally and utterly reprehensible.

I speak as someone who has in the past given the Labour Party my second preference vote. I am very sympathetic to some of the social justice issues it has espoused in the past. I hear this progressive rhetoric, but I do not see it backed up by any action. I would have thought the Labour Party would have had some feeling for animal welfare issues, yet last week its Senators voted with Fine Gael on amendments which are totally retrograde. I do not know how they could have done such a thing.

What is the Minister talking about? He will introduce the same amendments in the Dáil — he has been forced to do so by his Fianna Fáil colleagues.

The Minister to continue without interruption.

If the Minister goes into that area, he will get his answers.

Senator Bacik spoke blithely about the environmental pillar. From where did the environmental pillar come? We introduced it. For the very first time we have an environmental pillar as part of social partnership, which will be a very progressive move. I hope it is not removed if ever the Labour Party gets the opportunity to be in government.

I fear that some of the progressive moves we have made in Government will be repealed based on signals we are getting from some quarters in the Opposition.

Similarly funding for NGOs has been tripled. We have gone out of our way to assist environmental NGOs. We believe there is a place for debate. If there is a critique that we should be doing more, that is fine because we will step up to the plate and will do more on all these issues. Senator Bacik spoke about the Climate Change Bill 2009. As a lawyer, Senator Bacik will appreciate this. We have now got agreement from an international group of lawyers known as ClientEarth. That group approached the Green Party in Ireland because it was assisting the Australian Government which was about to introduce a climate change Bill but bottled it basically because of a climate change-sceptic Opposition.

It was a Labour Party Government.

Prime Minister Rudd indicated he could not go ahead with it, in the same fashion as French President Sarkozy.

We cannot be blamed for the actions of the Labour Party in Australia. It is pushing it to blame me for leaflets I have not seen.

Why not? The Senator has no problem blaming us for the actions of the Greens elsewhere in Europe.

It is very impressed with the legislation we are putting forward and it is seen as extremely innovative. There is a belief it will serve as a template for environmental legislation elsewhere, a fact in which I take great pride. We also aim to enshrine those climate change targets about which the Senator has spoken into the planned climate change Bill, the heads of which I intend to publish shortly. To say that this can be done easily is to underestimate that challenge. It is not easy.

I forgot to say that the Oireachtas committee we set up has been used as a talking shop as a means to give adversarial comment and to knock the Government. That is not what it was set up for, which was to get a political consensus. I am very disappointed in this.

We are proceeding with the climate change Bill 2010, a comprehensive legislation which we hope will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the context of a transition to a low carbon economy. As Senators know, the framework for the Bill was published last December and work has since been progressing on the heads of the Bill and the preparation of a framework for climate change adaptation.

We face enormous challenges in this area. The latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which is responsible for greenhouse gas emission projections, show the distance to target in the Kyoto Protocol commitment period 2008 — 2012 at 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year, or 12.7 million tonnes for the five year period. This is significantly lower than the original expectation in the national climate change strategy published in April 2007. At the time it was estimated that up to 18 million credits would be required to ensure compliance over the five-year commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol at an estimated cost of €270 million.

As outlined in the EPA's most recent projections under the national allocation plan 2008-12, the EPA established a new entrant set-aside where allowances were set aside for new entrants coming into the EU emissions trading scheme and for the expansion of existing installations over the 2008-12 period. It is currently estimated that there will be around 5 million allowances remaining in the new entrant set-aside at the end of the Kyoto period which will be available for the State to use towards Kyoto Protocol compliance.

I want to move on swiftly as water quality was also mentioned. The facts speak for themselves, and there is no way if there was a Labour Party Government we would spend the record amount we have on water infrastructure. The high priority that this Government attaches to the protection and improvement of water quality is demonstrated in a number of key areas. These include the extensive suite of legislation introduced since 2007, the transposition and implementation of the Water Framework Directive and the substantial investments in the water services investment programme. Key legislative developments since 2007 include continued implementation of the water framework directive through the introduction of new standards for water quality in both groundwater and surface waters; new regulations to give legal effect to the bathing water directive; the establishment of an authorisation system for waste water treatment plant discharges; and regulating for best practice in the management of nutrients in the agricultural sector.

In addition, the enactment of the Water Services Act 2007 and the European Community (Drinking Water) Regulations 2007 was designed to bring about a better quality of drinking water through increased enforcement powers. Under the regulations, suppliers of drinking water are required to ensure the water supplied is wholesome and clean. The application of the provisions in these regulations was instrumental in fully addressing a judgment against Ireland by the European Court of Justice on drinking water quality.

The EU water framework directive is a key initiative aimed at improving water quality throughout the European Union. First transposed in 2003, I introduced two significant new pieces of legislation in the past year to transpose further key aspects of the directive. These provide for new standards of water quality in both surface waters and groundwater. The first cycle of the river basin management plans is close to finalisation having been adopted in all 34 local authorities. The plans set out a programme of measures for the protection and improvement of water quality in seven regional districts based not on administrative boundaries but on natural catchments.

In March 2008 I introduced bathing water quality regulations which transposed the new bathing water directive. The new regulations give a stronger focus to the protection of human health. They also provide for the identification of beaches, the creation of beach profiles, the assessment of bathing water quality, the classification of beaches and the implementation of measures to ensure all beaches have a classification of at least sufficient by September 2015.

I also recently allocated €1.5 million over three years to support the maintenance and cleaning of key tourist sites during the peak season of May to September. However, it must be realised that the sustainable solution to maintaining our wonderful beaches rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the public that enjoys, but sometimes takes for granted, this wonderful part of our environment. This means bringing home any rubbish generated at the beaches and ensuring it is properly disposed of.

I also introduced new waste water discharge authorisation regulations in 2007. These regulations provide for the first time for the licensing of all discharges into the aquatic environment from local authority-owned sewage systems. Licensing of these systems by the EPA is well advanced with 89 licenses issued to date. In addition, revised good agricultural practice regulations were introduced in March 2009. These regulations provide for improved farmyard management and strengthened enforcement provisions. It is encouraging to note that the results from the EPA's national monitoring programme, published in February 2010, indicate that nitrate concentrations in rivers and lakes are relatively stable and levels in groundwater have begun to stabilise. The EPA is not recommending any additional measures to prevent and reduce water pollution from agricultural sources until results from ongoing studies into the efficacy of the existing measures to achieve the objectives of the good agricultural practice regulations are known.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has a provision of €508 million in its 2010 Estimate to fund the ongoing provision of water services infrastructure. This provision will mean that average spending on water services infrastructure throughout 2009 and 2010 will be up 3% on the 2008 outturn. It is a clear statement of the priority which the Government is giving to preserving and protecting our water resources as a key element of our environment, to meeting EU standards for drinking water and wastewater treatment and to providing critical infrastructure that will ensure ongoing support for economic development.

This level of investment in protecting and improving our water resources builds on similar levels of investment over many years. Compliance with the secondary treatment requirement of the EU urban wastewater treatment directive, which stood at 25% in 2000, is now at 92%. Some 480 water and wastewater schemes have been completed and there has been an increase in wastewater treatment capacity equivalent to the needs of a population of 3.7 million. The increase in drinking water treatment capacity is equivalent to the needs of a population of 1.1 million.

One can clearly see from the EPA's monitoring that we have seen an improvement in recent years in the quality of water in general and drinking water quality specifically. Despite what is seen in the media and the spin sometimes put on the issue, the overall water quality in bathing areas has also improved by approximately 4%.

With regard to river basin districts, it is important to emphasise that this is the way we will present our reports. In the past they were presented in terms of geographical areas but it will now come about in terms of catchment areas. This is the best way forward and gives us a better understanding of how water resources must be protected in coming years. With the Green Party in government this has and will continue to be done.

Hazardous waste and legacy sites were also briefly mentioned in the motion and by Senator Hannigan. The issue of industrial legacy sites, which operated at a time when such industrial activities were less well regulated, is one which the Government takes extremely seriously. It is recognised that there are unique environmental concerns among the local authorities in some areas because of the activities that have previously been carried out on the sites concerned during the years. Inevitably, in the nature of these activities — such as steel making, mining, gas works, and so on — they generated, over a considerable period, large quantities of wastes, some of it hazardous, which now requires to be dealt with. The former Irish Steel-Irish ISPAT site in Cork is a case in point. Between 2003 and 2009, Cork County Council, acting as the agent of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government carried out a comprehensive site investigation to determine the levels of contamination at the site and the remediation-development options there. It initiated ongoing environmental monitoring at established monitoring points, decontaminated and demolished the steelworks buildings and arranged for a site surface clearance.

The Green Party has been in government for three years. Under my watch, more has been spent on environmental remediation at Haulbowline in a 12-month period than was spent in the previous 68-year history of the site. I also ordered a comprehensive risk assessment by consultants White Young Green and made public the contents of all previous studies undertaken at this site. That is a matter of record.

A previous Administration sold off the site in question for £1, without having any regard to the environmental consequences. It must be borne in mind that the worst pollution at Haulbowline occurred not on our watch — the Green Party has taken more action than any other in respect of the site — but on that of the Labour Party when it was last in government. That is a fact.

Neither Senator Hannigan nor I were responsible for that.

I suppose the Labour Party was not in government at the time and did not make the deal.

The Minister to continue without interruption.

It was 13 years ago.

The Minister to continue without interruption

In fairness, the Minister is inviting interruption.

The site was sold for £1 and no environmental safeguards were put in place. That is shameful. Senator Hannigan referred to visiting the site and eating his sandwiches there.

I did not mention sandwiches.

The Senator has many supporters down there and that is the way to do it. He criticised Fianna Fáil but I am afraid the Labour Party has learned quite a few lessons from that party in the context of how it does business

The Minister should not refer to pots and kettles. I never thought I would live to see the day when he would compare the Labour Party to Fianna Fáil.

The Minister is inviting interruptions. He should, however, be allowed to continue, without interruption.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach is correct, the Minister is inviting interruptions.

In recent times I monitored how the Labour Party operates and I am aware that it does not commit in respect of anything. Water charges are fundamental if we are to have a good water infrastructure but the Labour Party does not appear to have a policy on them.

We can send the Minister as many documents as he desires in that regard. We have outlined policies on many issues and we can engage in a debate on them any day of the week. We can stand over our policies——

The Labour Party has plenty of reports.

——and our Senators do not come before the House to play the fool.

What is the Labour Party's policy on water charges?

The Minister should be allowed to continue, without interruption.

The Senator will have ample opportunity later to outline his party's policies in detail.

I have already contributed to the debate and cannot come in again.

In such circumstances the Deputy's colleague can contribute.

Senator Hannigan should desist.

Let us have some openness, transparency and honesty. Everybody wants to know the policies of the Labour Party.

I will send the relevant documentation to the Minister. As stated, we have many policies and I hope the Minister will read our policy documents because he might learn something from them

Senator Hannigan has a right to reply to the debate at its conclusion.

One of the documents the Minister can take on board immediately is the Labour Party's Climate Change Protection Bill.

The Senator was absent from the Chamber when I referred to that matter. Perhaps his colleague, Senator Bacik, will update him on what I said.

The steps to which I referred earlier brought the site at Haulbowline to a position where the Government decided that the Office of Public Works, OPW, would chair a working group to develop a structured and coherent approach to the further management and development of the site and to advise Government on options for its future use. The OPW working group is carrying out its mandate, with Cork County Council continuing to discharge site management responsibilities on an agency basis.

I have always been adamant that consultation with local communities is an absolutely essential element to a satisfactory resolution. Community health issues obviously do not come under my remit but I am acutely aware of the concerns about health in the lower harbour area. I am of the view that through the public consultation mechanism of the working group, there can and will be engagement with the local community to examine and explore these issues in detail. Consequent on a decision as to its future use, a detailed risk assessment of the entire site, with recommendations for the appropriate remediation required, can also be undertaken to facilitate such future use. When dealing with sites of this nature, it is crucial that rather than piecemeal action, which could inadvertently cause problems for the local community and the environment, a coherent overall approach should be taken to obtain the best possible results. That is the objective being pursued by the Government in this case. I reassure the House that the relevant Departments and agencies remain properly engaged in the management of such legacy sites in a manner which is consistent with good practice and minimisation of risk to human health and the environment.

On environmental enforcement, there are those who persist in acting illegally by dumping waste, polluting our air and our water and littering our beaches. Local authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement have been taking a very robust approach to such activity and must be commended for this. There can be no excuse for this type of behaviour and it will not be tolerated. The Government has committed €7.5 million per annum up until 2014 for the employment of enforcement officers by local authorities and is committed to providing further funding towards the costs associated with their deployment for enforcement related activities. To further underpin progress, I am establishing an action group to come forward with recommendations for further action to tackle the problem of rural and roadside littering. Ultimately, our success will be dependent on our capacity to act collectively and to ensure littering and other environmental vandalism, and the associated damage to our economy and our quality of life, are fully and comprehensively eradicated.

On a point of order, the Minister made a comment regarding the lack of consensus among those on the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security which Members on this side of the House did not hear. Would be mind expanding on that matter?

That is not a point of order.

I accept that. However, I could not think of any other way to intervene.

Once Senator O'Toole said it was going to be a point of order, I knew that would not be the case.

That was well spotted. This is why the Minister occupies his current position.

I would be happy to elucidate on the matter. I already pointed out to Senator Bacik that a team of international lawyers, ClientEarth, which previously worked with the Australian Government, is working with us on the relevant Bill. I hope to be in a position to publish the heads thereof shortly before the summer recess. I also hope to guide it through the Houses in the autumn. The legislation is complex and ground-breaking in nature and is has real implications for other Departments, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. That is why progress has been slower than I would like. However, that is the political reality.

The Minister made a comment about a lack of consensus among the members of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security and referred to people engaging in political opportunism.

Senator O'Toole will have an opportunity to make points of this nature when he contributes.

I stated that the joint committee was established at the behest of the Green Party. Members of the Labour Party and other Opposition parties are using the committee not to achieve consensus but rather in the most adversarial way. Their only goal is to bash the Government. That is not the purpose for which the joint committee was established. I had hoped it would develop a consensus on these major issues.

The Minister's facts do not stand up to scrutiny.

On a point of order, I was the first person to refer to the committee during this debate and I pointed out that it had made a unanimous recommendation on the need for climate change legislation.

That is not a point of order.

A consensus did emerge among members of the committee.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this matter. I have outlined, in a broad way, the current state of play in terms of the various measures and policies in place to protect and enhance our environment. I hope the House will recognise that with policies, plans and legislation now well embedded, we have placed an intensive focus on the critical area of implementation. Effective implementation is the ultimate test of any initiative we take. The Government will continue to demonstrate the leadership, drive and determination needed to maintain the solid progress already being made in delivery of the many environmental commitments in its policy programme. These are designed to enhance and protect our environment for all our people and for future generations.

I commend the Government amendment to the House.

I welcome the Minister and thank the Labour Party for tabling this broad ranging motion which provides us with an opportunity to debate the important matters brought to our focus. As I stated, the motion is broad and encompasses a wide range of issues including water quality, waste management, the environment and legacy sites. While I will not be able to cover all of those issues in eight minutes I will comment as best I can on some of them.

There is a commitment to climate change from all parties. It is regrettable to hear the Minister say the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security is adversarial. I am a member of that committee and I have not witnessed any of what the Minister claimed in this House is happening. The committee has submitted many constructive proposals and recommendations. For example, the electric vehicles report was initiated by that committee and was utilised to a large degree by Government in framing its policy on electric vehicles. The committee also submitted proposals for a foreshore licensing Bill, the intention of which was to remove many of the barriers to renewable energies and to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. There has been much constructive debate at that committee. I cannot say whether the Minister has misunderstood or is misrepresenting the position. I believe he is being adversarial in introducing that red herring into the debate this evening. The Minister's remarks are regrettable. The Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security has worked hard to produce constructive cross party proposals.

Only today the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security discussed the national renewable energy action plan which must be implemented by the end of this month. Officials from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who attended the committee had not consulted with the committee despite it having strong views in this area. Only two weeks ago it was brought to the committee's attention that targets were being set, serious targets which would have a huge impact on the manner in which Government policy is implemented. These targets should at the very least have been discussed at an early stage with the committee. Late consultation with stakeholders is not the way to go about addressing issues.

Many serious issues have been raised in regard to the setting of targets. The impression was given to the committee that many individual agencies, Departments and Ministers are, with the best of intentions, doing their own thing in terms of reaching those targets. Individual local authorities are drawing up their wind strategies for zoning in areas where it would be appropriate to have renewable energy wind turbines. There is no joined up thinking between local authorities and Departments. Another example of this is that of foreshore licences. We do not know if the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is responsible for these licences. This is impacting on water quality. For example, seven villages in Waterford county where I live made a combined application to the Department for the installation of new sewerage schemes. Two or three of the villages concerned require a foreshore licence and because they have not yet been issued with them the application in respect of the seven villages has been held up for almost seven years. There is no co-ordination or fluency in regard to the issuing of foreshore licences. This is an issue the Minister could address and on which there has been little action. The Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security has tried to address this matter through the constructive mechanism of the foreshore licensing Bill. I hope the Minister will take these points on board.

Many of the pilot projects under way, including the smart metering programme, renewable generation programme and micro generation programme, programmes I credit the Government on introducing — I believe in giving credit where it is due — are, unfortunately, closed to new applicants. If we are realistic in regard to how we are to reach our targets those programmes must be rolled out and expanded to enable more people to access them. We must learn from the problems encountered during operation of the pilot programmes to ensure these programmes are implemented in an easier manner.

I am passionate about the issue of hazardous sites and legacy landfills. I acknowledge that the Minister was not in office when many of these were developed. The same is true of many people on this side of the House. In the past, industries were established without thought in regard to their environmental implications. This is how things were done in those days not alone in Ireland but across the world. We have our fair share of these in Ireland. There are also many of them in the United Kingdom but they appear to be dealing with them a little better than we do. Haulbowline and Silvermines are examples in this regard. I come from Portlaw, County Waterford in which the former cotton mill was located. Portlaw is a planned industrial town developed around all of the supports of an urban town, with employment, health and education services all developed in a short time. In the 1930s, Irish Tanners was, unfortunately — perhaps fortunately at the time — established by the State. Irish Tanners operated on the same site for more than 50 years during which time hazardous and toxic material was dumped on a mill pond consisting of three acres which is directly adjacent to the River Clodagh. I grew up in Portlaw.

I was elected a councillor in 1999. Every agency, Department, Minister and local authority has since then consistently turned a blind eye when I raised the environmental issues in regard to that site. Perhaps this is because Portlaw is but a small town in County Waterford. This site is 50 meters from the River Clodagh in which fresh water mussels live. This species is under threat of extinction yet the local authority is throwing its hands up and saying it does not have the resources to address this issue. The EPA is aware of the problem but is doing nothing about it. I have consistently raised this matter since 1999. I have raised this matter in the Seanad but again nobody has done anything about it.

I do not blame the Minister for this problem. I am speaking to him now as a member of Government. The Minister stated he is addressing the issue of legacy sites. I am telling him that this is not happening and that in many cases the blind eye is being turned. As required under an EU directive issued in 2008 a great deal of money has been spent on remediating the many local authority landfills which were unlined and untreated. These are not the only landfills. There are many industrial sites around the country that need to be registered. I suggest that the Minister's Department require, as per European law, all local authorities to register these sites properly and to survey them and come up with estimated costs for remediation. This would be a good day's work and would result in real action on the ground.

On waste generation, I understand the Minister is in conflict with Dublin City Council in regard to the construction of an incinerator or the introduction of anaerobic digestive systems. Under current regional waste management plans, each region is doing its own thing. We do not have a national co-ordinating management plan that will direct and inform those plans, another issue which the Minister should examine. As I stated, I give credit where it is due. Much work has been done on recycling in respect of which we have exceeded our targets. Society is to be complimented on the manner in which it bought into Government and local authority initiatives in this regard. This has helped to remove the waste streams from our environment and in addressing the issue of dumping.

On water quality and supply, much work remains to be done in rural Ireland. I acknowledge that new water and waste management systems have been installed. However, questions have arisen with regard to the sustainability of those systems, many of which were carried out under public-private partnerships. The hard questions in regard to how these are to be sustained will need to be asked. Many businesses are now being charged for water out and water in, thus causing us new challenges. However, those systems are needed. We also need more of them. I believe that many local authorities continue to pollute our water courses. Raw sewage continues to pollute the streams and rivers of small towns and villages, which is unacceptable.

I acknowledge the Minister is trying to address the issue of septic tanks. I suggest that he engage with those rural dwellers in a positive sense and that, rather than come the heavy hand with these people he offer an incentive which would encourage them to upgrade their septic tanks. We cannot target the little man if we are not targeting the big men, the people who polluted our environment. I respectfully suggest the Minister introduce grants or incentives to encourage people to upgrade their septic tank systems. I am sure he would be delighted by the uptake in this regard.

There is much I could say in regard to water quality. My colleague, Senator Ó Brolcháin will be aware of the cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Galway — an outbreak also occurred in Waterford — and that it took weeks and months to obtain the results of the tests which had to be sent to Scotland and England for analysis. Why can we not have a proper water testing system in our national laboratory to test for cryptosporidiosis and keep on top of the problem if it arises? These are some of my observations. This debate will go on and on, because improvements can be made and will be made all the time.

The tabling of this motion by the Labour Party is indicative of the posturing from which we have seen that party benefitting in recent times. It adds nothing to the debate, achieves nothing in terms of improving standards and represents the type of Shangri-La politics that the Labour Party wants to practise. It wants to be all things to all people. The Labour Party speaks out of both sides of its mouth. It claims to be in favour of animal welfare but its votes in this Chamber indicate otherwise. It claims to be in favour of climate change.

We are in favour of animal welfare. We debated that in depth and the Green Party Minister refused to give us cogent reasons we should vote for the Bill.

Senator Hannigan, please allow Senator Boyle to make his contribution. The Senator will have a right to reply.

I will not have that opportunity. One of my colleagues will reply to the debate.

I am sorry I have upset the Senator but I will not engage in the invective with which he started the debate. Allow me to point out the facts. The Labour Party voted against animal welfare legislation that came before the House.

That is not the case.

It claims to be in favour of——

The Minister failed to make his case. He was not in control of his brief. He failed to convince the House.

Senator Hannigan, please allow Senator Boyle to speak.

On a point of order, the Senator is speaking on an issue that is not on the Order Paper.

Senator Hannigan, what is your point of order?

My point of order is that we are debating the environment. We are not discussing animal welfare.

Senator Hannigan, that is not a point of order, for goodness sake. Will you allow Senator Boyle to speak without interruption?

The Labour Party claims to be in favour of environmental taxes but when such taxes are proposed they oppose them. The Labour Party claims to be in favour of sustainable transport, yet when Labour Party councillors move motions in local authorities, within 24 hours they are asked to withdraw or water them down because their party leaders tell them they are politically unpopular. I will not take ranting or hypocrisy from the Labour Party.

That is the Labour Party as it is now. Let me tell the House about the Labour Party in government.

That is not the case. It was not 24 hours. Just because we have members at local authority level — to have local representatives——

Let us hear about your environmental record in government. Let us hear about your time in the rainbow Government. What did you do about the nitrates directive?

Senator Boyle, please direct your remarks through the Chair.

I have to do this, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, because every time I make a point I am interrupted. What did they do on the nitrates directive? What did they do about the habitats directive?

Senator Boyle is ranting now.

On a point of order, I am more than willing to let the Senator continue, but he is looking for a response.

That is definitely not a point of order. It may be that he likes you, Senator Hannigan.

I want to make the Senator think of the consequences of his statements. I make my apology here and now. What did the Labour Party do in government about the habitats directive or the nitrates directive. It did sweet damn all.

I cannot listen to the Senator trying to defend his current record in government. He is talking about a record of 15 years ago. What is he doing?

Senator Hannigan, I will have to ask you to leave the Chamber.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh, I cannot take this.

We can take it.

Senator Hannigan, your party will have a right of reply.

Could we have a debate as opposed to consistent baiting?

The Waste Management Bill, introduced by a Labour Party Minister for the Environment and Local Government, includes a provision for incineration, which allows an incinerator to be developed in the constituency Senator Hannigan wants to represent. Would he like to explain to his potential constituents why we have legislation that was brought in by the Labour Party and which he opposes in terms of waste management principles? That is the hypocrisy of the Labour Party. That is why they should be the last to be considered guardians of the environment.

That is unfair and untrue and we cannot accept it. Senator Boyle's party's record speaks for itself. It is abysmal.

Senator Hannigan, you are being disrespectful to the Chair.

He is being provoked.

So are Senator Boyle and the Green Party. The motion is provocative.

I am tired of my party being represented as nice people. When I see some of the bile thrown in front of us tonight, I can only respond accordingly.

If the Senator wants to see bile, I will give him bile. We merely stated the facts.

When I hear such half-baked messages and witness ignorance, I have to say the people who are making these accusations are least well considered to make them.

The accusations by the Labour Party, particularly with regard to water quality, are incredible. At a time of national economic downturn and particular pressures on capital expenditure, the Green Party, through its Minister, has managed to increase spending on water infrastructure. This is the only area of capital expenditure where that has happened in the past three years, yet the Labour Party sees fit to criticise this.

The issue of Haulbowline is close to my heart. I have been campaigning on this issue for 20 years and the Minister alluded to it. The biggest pollution was caused by the Ispat deal in 1995, which was sanctioned by a Labour Party Minister for Finance and a Fine Gael Minister for Enterprise. The State sold the asset for £1 and put in no measures of environmental protection. The State then encouraged the EPA to engage in a merry dance for five years while the pretence of a waste licence was being given. This all happened on the watch of the rainbow Government. That is when the most pollution occurred. When I hear Labour Party representatives in the Cork Harbour area criticising the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who has spent more on environmental protection in the years we have been in government——

Would Senator Boyle agree to a baseline study?

Senator Boyle, you have one minute left.

I should have four minutes, given the number of interruptions I have had.

The Senator is interrupting himself.

Do I not get extra time? Most of my time has been taken up by Senator Hannigan.

May I point out to Senator Hannigan that it is impossible to interrupt oneself?

More money has been spent on environmental protection by this Minister than by all previous Governments combined. The Minister initiated the last report by White Young Green on the actual situation in Haulbowline, what the contaminants are and what the risks are. The report found no risk in terms of airborne pollution and drinking water. There are risks to marine environment and particular measures must be followed through. The Minister also published all the reports done on Haulbowline in the previous 20 years. These reports had been kept secret by all preceding Governments, including Governments that included the Labour Party.

When Senator Hannigan talks about Haulbowline he should not tell me the Labour Party gives a damn about what went on there. The Labour Party is largely to blame for the mess.

Will the Green Party do a baseline study? I cannot take this accusation that we do not give a damn. My father was born on Haulbowline. I have tremendous respect for the island. I will not accept the Senator saying I do not give a damn. That is unfair.

Senator Hannigan, you must respect the Chair. That is not a point of order.

It is a point of order. Senator Boyle said we did not give a damn about Haulbowline. I am contradicting him and telling him we do give a damn.

Senator Boyle, you are out of time.

On a point of order, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, I think you need to give Senator Boyle some more time. He has been interrupted outrageously by Labour Party Senators.

I will make one concluding remark. I am disappointed at the number of interruptions I have had to deal with.

You invited some of them, Senator. I ask you to conclude.

I made one interruption when Senator Hannigan was making his speech, at which he became very upset. I have experienced at least three dozen interruptions during my contribution. If I speak with passion, it is because I sincerely believe the intent and veracity of the motion are underlined and undermined by the lack of sincerity of those who have moved it. There is only one course of action, that is, to reject it and support the amendment tabled by the Government.

In all fairness, the motion tabled by the Labour Party is not very critical of the Government. It simply asks for sufficient measures to be taken. It is good to see the Green Party feeling its oats again and coming out fighting. This is good and healthy and Members on the Independent benches are very pleased to see it happening.

The truth is the motion is not excessively condemnatory of Government policy.

Did the Senator hear the speeches?

The smart thing for the Government side to do would be to accept the motion because there is no problem with it. When the Minister, Deputy Gormley, moved from his script, he was completely wrong. I, too, am a member of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. I stand to be corrected, but I cannot remember any occasion — the Minister should check the record and correct what he said if he was wrong——

This is not about the committee.

The Minister spoke about a lack of consensus at the committee. I support Senator Coffey in the points he made. As Senator Boyle stated, the committee was established because of a demand made by the Green Party.

I should have said I would like to share my time with Senator Norris.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The committee did something unique. It published a fully agreed Bill, the Foreshore Licensing Bill, which it sent to the Minister, but nothing has happened. It was a classic example of where all parties and none had got behind the Government in support of its policy. There was nothing in the Bill that caused a difficulty for the Government. It dealt with a very important issue that was causing problems all over the place, namely, that space between high tide and low tide in offshore energy projects. I would like to ask the Minister why he did not accept the Bill which has been passed from one Department to another.

Another issue raised by Senator Coffey concerns an all-party report — supported by the Labour Party and the Green Party before Deputy Gormley became Minister — on electric cars. There was total support for the Green Party's policy. The report urged the Government to go further and offered it the full support of all groups represented on the committee. The leading person behind it was Deputy Coveney of Fine Gael.

Another Department has become involved in the geothermal energy issue, that of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resource, Deputy Ryan. The members of the committee are aware of enormous investments made in geothermal energy projects, some in or very close to the constituency of the Minister of State, Deputy Brady. Investors have put together all of the basics for the capturing of heat for district heating systems, but they must be granted authority to capture that heat because it would be delivered via land which may not be owned by the initiators of an project. It is similar to that of mining rights. Legislation must be introduced to cover the matter. I have been assured in the House on at least three or four occasions that its publication is only around the corner, but we have not yet seen it.

I will not go into the matter of climate change because the committee has raised it repeatedly. However, it is disappointed. It brought forward a report, this time driven by the Labour Party representative, Deputy McManus, who did significant work in support of Government policy. I have the report of the rapporteur for the committee which is in no way critical of the Government's position or divisive. Any person should jump to support it.

The position is unfair. The committee Chairman, Deputy Barrett, is scrupulous about ensuring the committee will not be used to undermine the Government and has been entirely fair. However, he shares my frustration and that of Senator Coffey and many other members of the committee, including those on the Government side, that we have not made progress on the matter.

I refer to the environmental issues raised by Government speakers. The issue of water quality in Galway was mentioned. People with access to swimming pools backwash the filters every couple of weeks or months. They use sand filters such as those used in one of the main water treatment facilities in Galway. I understand there was no such treatment in that place because of a management problem. In other words, the plant was using the same sand filter put in place in 1947 or 1948 which had never been upgraded, serviced or backwashed. Material was passing straight through the filter which might as well not have been in place.

On water charges, I ask Senator Boyle to point out to the relevant Ministers that the charge to be levied will not be for water which is free. One can go out with a bucket when it is raining and collect as much water as one wishes. One can put the bucket down a well or even dig one's own well. The charge will be for the delivery and treatment of water.

Every time a Minister stands up to talk about water charges, he or she invites opposition. There must be recognition that the treatment and delivery of water are costly. There are fair ways of doing this. One can ensure everybody will receive a certain quantity of water before being charged.

I remind the Senator that he is sharing time.

I do not mind waiting. I shall take my chance later.

The Minister of State might consider the following issue as being taken out of context, but it is not. The frequently mentioned proposal to get rid of town councils and smaller groups throughout the country would be disastrous.

It was not mentioned by us.

I understood it had come from the Government side, but perhaps I am wrong. The people who will look after the environment are locals. Only when money raised from water charges and rates is spent by local groups will the matter receive attention. If it is spend on the wrong item, the people down the street will argue about it, whereas they take no notice at present.

I do not know what is the Government's policy on incineration. Senator Boyle had a go at the Labour Party. I wish I knew where the Green Party stood on the issue.

Our policy is clear.

As Senator Coffey and I stated, we do not know how many incinerators are being built. The last time I checked there were possibly eight or nine.

Senator Coffey knows.

He does not. He and I have sought the information many times.

There are five regional waste management plans in which the provision of an incinerator is proposed.

There are an enormous number of elements involved and certain actions need to be taken. I compliment the Green Party on much of what it has done in government. Like Senator Coffey, I will give credit where it is due. However, certain matters need to be faced. We need to move forward. The Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security is frustrated because the Government is not moving on some of the issues I have raised and many more. All of the work of the committee has been superbly done, presented and is available to the Government. None of it undermines Government policy. Senator Coffey may correct me, but I do not believe any of it has even been critical. We have been critical of delays, but that is as far as the committee has gone. That criticism has been made as much by Government members as by others.

As to how the House should deal with this business, we must look at the issues of water quality and local government which are linked with the environment. Senator Coffey mentioned the issue of waste and pools that have not been dealt with in his area beside the River Clodagh. That is a real issue for local people. We must look at such matters. The Government should be pushed. As such, I will support the motion which the Labour Party has tabled in very simple terms: "That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to institute sufficient measures to ensure that the Irish environment is adequately protected and enhanced, particularly in relation to ... climate change legislation ...". I thought the early enactment of climate change legislation was Government policy. Listening to the Minister, I thought "the quality of our rivers and our water supply, the maintenance and improvement of our public beaches and remedial measures to address hazardous waste sites, including at Haulbowline", were also part of Government policy. Which aspect of the motion causes a problem for the Government? I have listened to the entire debate——

The Senator did not hear the opening speeches which were——

I listened to them. I vote on the basis of the wording of a motion. The Government is making a tactical mistake. It should have welcomed the support of the Labour Party and asked it to join with the Green Party.

I agree with everything Senator O'Toole said and welcome the Minister of State. I also welcome the reply to the motion of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley. I do not believe he said there was no consensus on the matter; there is. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet, but we have different ways of going about things and want measures to be introduced quicker. I do not agree that Senator Hannigan is a hypocrite. He is a man I highly respect. Perhaps some of us should be members of Actors' Equity.

Tackling environmental issues is a priority for Fianna Fáil in government. It is committed to implementing an ambitious environmental programme, which includes protecting and preserving our water resources, tackling climate change and continued improvements in waste management policy.

The environment budget is €2.3 billion in 2010. One of the key measures is the introduction of a new carbon levy which will yield in the region of €250 million this year and €330 million in a full year. Its introduction is a landmark step in integrating climate change mesures with the annual fiscal budgetary process. Some €90 million will be spent on retrofitting, of which €36 million will ring-fenced for households experiencing energy poverty. This is double the amount allocated in 2009.

The Government has published a new transport policy, Smarter Travel — A Sustainable Transport Future, and a great deal has been achieved to date. I compliment Dublin City Council on the introduction of its bicycle scheme under which its bicycles are being widely used. The scheme has been effective in getting people to move from the car to public transport, as is evident on the streets of Dublin city in the morning.

The Minister has circulated a draft framework for the climate change Bill 2010 which outlines the key provisions on which detailed heads will be based. Work on their drafting is at an advanced stage. The Minister has said he expects, following Government consideration of the Bill, to be in a position to publish it shortly.

The Labour Party has called on the Government to implement measures to protect the quality of our rivers, public beaches and water supply. Last week An Taisce published details of the 2010 list of international standard clean beaches. It found that six Irish beaches had lost their blue flag status, while five others had regained theirs. Some 76 Irish beaches and marinas have been awarded blue flag status for this summer season compared to 77 last year. A total of 80 were awarded this status in 2008. While the overall results in regard to water quality were disappointing because of heavy rainfall and so on, I am confident that the actions taken by the Government to tackle water quality will lead to an increase in the number of beaches being awarded blue flag status in the coming years.

The Government is committed to tackling water quality issues in the water services investment programme 2010 to 2012 which will see €1.8 billion invested in some 340 contracts. The new programme will provide for the provision of crucial infrastructure in the next three years, a greater focus on water conservation measures and river basis management planning. The continuing high level of the Exchequer allocation — €508 million this year alone — is a clear statement of the priority the Government attaches to preserving and protecting our water resources to meet EU standards for drinking water and wastewater treatment. The programme, therefore, provides for an investment of €320 million in repairing leaking networks, a doubling of expenditure in this regard in the past seven years. This will help to eliminate waste and protect water basins. It is important that households moderate their use of this increasingly expensive and critically important resource which we sometimes take for granted.

The role of the metering programme leading to water charges will contribute to more sustainable levels in water consumption. Following the phased installation of water meters, households will be charged for water based on their usage in 2012. It is interesting to note that the Labour Party has tabled this Private Members' motion calling on the Government to implement measures to protect the environment, in particular the quality of water, but it has failed to state where it stands on the important issue of water charges. As Senator O'Toole rightly pointed out, it costs money to provide water and have a good quality water supply. The Labour Party has refused to show leadership on the issue which forms a key part of the Government's plan for investment in the supply of water in the next three years. When Deputy Gilmore was recently asked the party's policy on water charges in an interview on Newstalk's "Breakfast" show, he made it clear that the Labour Party still had no position on the matter. He said, as reported in an article inThe Irish Times on 19 May 2010, “Well, that is something we’re looking at the moment. We have to look at what the European rules are on it. We have to look at the cost of metering.” Senator Boyle made the same point. Parties have to let the people know where they stand on the issue. It is easy to say they want better water quality, but the money must come from somewhere.

Following publication of the new water services investment programme, the Labour Party's environment spokesperson, Deputy Tuffy, in typical populist fashion, came out immediately to criticise the substantial investment in water services. It is not good enough for the Labour Party to criticise every policy measure taken by the Government and then fail to bring forward its alternative proposal or state clearly its stance on such an important matter. The Government is taking measures to protect the environment. It is about time the Labour Party indicated the measures it would take to improve our water services, but it has failed to do so to date.

Some improvements in water quality have been made. The Environmental Protection Agency's report on urban wastewater discharges in 2006 and 2007 was published in 2009. On compliance with the requirement of the EU urban water treatment directive relating to secondary water treatment facilities, there is now a 92% compliance rate compared with a figure of 25% in 2002.

A further point I wish to make relates to encouraging people to grow their own vegetables. There is a huge waiting list for allotments in Dublin City Council. Huge land banks around the city and in other parts of the country are lying idle. I ask the Minister to take this into account and try to acquire some of this land to meet the needs of the large number of people on the waiting list. There are 3,000 on the waiting list for allotments in St. Anne's Park, but there are only 120 allotments available. I ask the Minister to take this point on board.

Of the elements of the motion, I will deal with public beaches. I am encouraged that the Labour Party is coming under attack tonight because it indicates somebody is concerned about us. I am always encouraged by this.

Compliance with EU bathing water standards is based on the parameters specified in EU directive 76.160/EEC . The results of tests on samples are analysed or assessed to ensure compliance with two sets of EU standards specified in the directive, namely, minimum quality standards, or EU mandatory value, and the more stringent quality targets, or EU guide values. During the bathing season water quality in each bathing area must comply with minimum EU mandatory values. In addition, in all bathing areas one should endeavour to achieve the stricter EU guide values.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently reported that in 2009 the quality of Ireland's bathing waters remained "high". That is good news, but not great news. There are 131 designated bathing areas, water quality in 122 of which complies with the EU mandatory standards. Its status is classed as being of sufficient quality. In addition, water quality in 82% of bathing areas — 108 of the 131 areas designated — complied with the stricter EU guide standards and thus achieved the status of good water quality. Nine of the 131 bathing areas — 7% of the total — failed to comply with the minimum mandatory standards and were classified as being of poor water quality status. In combination, 18% of our bathing areas are not categorised as being of a good standard. The mandatory or "sufficient" standard still allows between 500 and 10,000 coliforms per 100 millilitres of sample. It also allows between 100 and 2,000 faecal coliforms per 100 millilitres.

Whether we ought to rest on our laurels and describe such a performance as being good is open to debate. Anything less than good is not acceptable. Unfortunately, three of the nine bathing areas that failed to comply with minimum mandatory standards are in my own local authority area of Fingal. There is no doubt that the over-development which took place in north Fingal in the past 15 years, without proper sewerage infrastructure, is a major contributing factor. The local authority is now playing catch-up. This must never be allowed to happen again anywhere in the country and it is very disappointing for the people of Fingal and the greater Dublin area. Three of its most popular bathing areas failed minimum EU quality standards and received a "poor" water quality status for last year.

This is a matter of grave concern for those who depend on the attraction of our seaside resorts and coastline. During the years the residents' associations, business and community groups have, by means of their voluntary work, built up the reputation of their towns and of their beaches. This report will be most disappointing to these activists.

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, together with the local authorities, must take responsibility for non-compliance with the EU standards. In response to this report, Fingal County Council stated that the beaches failed because of heavy rainfall, causing overflow of pumping stations, overflow from septic tanks and from on-site treatment plants. This response is totally unacceptable. Is the quality of our bathing areas forever going to depend on our weather? Rainfall can exacerbate a problem, but only when there is an underlying issue there in the first place. It is important that both the council and the Department are up front with people.

As and from last year, Fingal County Council is subject to a discharge licence for the Balbriggan and Skerries treatment plant and has legal obligations under that licence. The licence also covers the distribution network. I have been in contact with the EPA and have been informed that on foot of these 2009 results, Fingal County Council will be directed to resolve the problems by carrying out remedial works and upgrading the network by the end of the year to resolve the underlying problems. I hope this welcome enforcement action by the EPA will have the desired result. However, this will require that funding be made available to the local authority by the Minister to have the necessary upgrade carried out. I hope he will respond positively.

While disappointed that some of our beaches have failed to meet the EU standards, progress has been reported with other beaches in Fingal, and this is to be welcomed. The water quality at Malahide and Loughshinny beaches went from "poor" to "sufficient", while that at Portrane went from "poor" to "good", which is an upward jump of two grades. The EPA report, which classifies bathing water quality as being either "poor", "sufficient" or "good" is a useful indicator. However, the blue flag award for beaches goes beyond water quality and includes environmental education and beach management. This is much more important. Water quality must meet the "good" standard for two consecutive years before a local authority can apply for the flag for any particular beach. For example, the beach at Portrane met the water quality standard in 2009, but not in 2008; therefore, Fingal County Council could not apply for the blue flag status for this year, but if good results continue, it will regain the status next year.

The blue flag is a European brand and as such is a valuable asset when trying to attract tourists from the European market.

A blue flag status for all our beaches must be our objective, and the EPA water quality standards are early indicators of progress, but not an end in themselves. There should be a national strategy for the achievement of blue flags. Local authorities should be directed by the Department to produce plans for achievement of certain milestones along the way. The number of blue flags in Ireland this year was reduced by one, with five regaining the status, but unfortunately six losing it. Ireland now has 76 blue flag bathing areas. This represent 58% of our total designated bathing areas, so we still have a good bit to go.

Our beaches are considered to be one of the most vital recreational facilities available to residents and visitors alike. Action must be taken to ensure this continues to be the case, and that our beaches and bathing areas remain the vital natural amenity that all of our people can enjoy. Excuses are no longer acceptable.

I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution on the motion before the House. We all have environmental issues at various levels. I would like to highlight a few that are possibly not the direct responsibility of the Minister, but the responsibility of agencies that are responsible to him.

We have all heard the debate in recent months on one-off houses and the treatment units that are being provided for those houses. People have had problems trying to get planning permission to build houses on sites that are family owned, and many reasons have been given to deny permission. One of the main reasons in my county of Leitrim is that the treatment units that are put in to treat the sewage from these one-off houses do not meet a certain standard. However, when the companies that supply these treatment units have sought the prescribed standard from the EPA, it turned out that the EPA has no standard. That is a terrible situation. The EPA cannot provide the specification required for people to be allowed build houses in rural Ireland. This is unacceptable. Most of these treatment units produce what is known as grey water, which can be used for watering lawns or for any other non-domestic use. It can make a contribution to the environment by preventing people from using treated water to water their flowers. We know the cost to the State of producing such treated water.

Water charges come from the cost of treating water. This is an opportunity for less water to be used in these households if a proper, clear initiative could be given by the EPA on the required standards. In spite of persistent requests by various people involved in the business of supplying treatment units, the EPA is not in a position to provide the relevant standards. That is wrong. We can set standards for discharges from public sewerage schemes, but we cannot set them for discharges from one-off houses. That must be examined as soon as possible. I raised this today on the Order of Business and I will continue to raise it until I get an answer from the EPA on the required standard.

Another problem we have is the number of objections to projects that are environmentally friendly. We see objections to wind farms, biodigesters and anything that seeks to improve our environment. Many of the people who object are so ignorant of what is proposed that they are not for real. Some of the objections are totally ludicrous. It is very difficult for wind farms to be connected to the national grid for any of these projects. We have seen cases in which planning permission granted for wind farms have run out because they cannot get connected to the grid. It is long past the time when the ESB should be asked to allow these connections if we are to try to meet our targets under the Kyoto Protocol. It is ridiculous that we find ourselves in this situation.

Some of the small thermal treatment units are well able to deal with waste and these could be established in certain areas, rather than having to drag stuff from one end of the country to the other into landfills and even outside the State. This could be disposed of through these units and the only by-product is ash, which could be recycled and used in road construction. The power generated by these can go back into the national grid again.

There are vested interests out there that are preventing a green agenda from moving on, and the people behind this will have to be tackled. These vested interests have for too long been able to prevent us from acting as the guardians of the environment that we inherited. We have to accept that this generation and the generation before it probably did more to vandalise the environment than generations for 1,000 years before them. If there has been vandalism, there is a need to redress it. We have an opportunity to do so very quickly and leave the environment in a better state, but red tape continues to prevent progress. Some of the organisations established to deal with environmental matters are out of synch with what is required in the modern age. It takes them too long and they do not want to make a decision. They will speak and debate indefinitely, but decisions are the last thing they want to take. We will have to do something about this.

Various Governments have made an enormous contribution to providing properly treated water, particularly in rural areas. Some county councils are also to be complimented. I certainly compliment the county council in my home county of Leitrim which has one of the best available water schemes. Every small village in the county has a sewerage scheme. However, the only reason for this is that the council took the initiative and used the money available during the Celtic tiger era to implement these schemes. The net result is that we do not have the problems experienced in other areas.

It is terrible to hear Senator Coffey state raw sewage is discharged into rivers. That is not acceptable.

We all know it happens in certain areas, but there are alternatives. The Environmental Protection Agency could set standards and allow people to deal with the matter themselves. The public does not want raw sewage in rivers because it knows the river may be one from which water is extracted for a local supply two miles downstream. It is all out of line. We have too many regulations from people unable to implement them.

There are plenty of opportunities to move a long way from where we are. The Minister was constructive about what he proposed and saw as the work carried out. Many simple things could be done. I want to mention environmental vandalism by people who drop their waste here, there and yonder at somebody's gate or across a farmer's hedge into a field. They are not entitled to sympathy when caught. In parts of my county people participating in community employment schemes pick up papers and bottles thrown along the side of the road. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Ó Cuív, will introduce a new scheme under which this type of work should be allowed. I appeal to the unions that if such a proposal is put before them, they allow those in receipt of social welfare payments who will be given an opportunity to work on community employment schemes or their equivalent to do such work and clean up our environment. This is imperative.

Some have attacked the rural community and farmers, in particular, with regard to vandalism. They are the people least likely to engage in vandalism because they must look after their environment. Certain regulations have made life impossible for them, one of which involves a ban on the spreading of slurry at certain times of the year. Last year the ban was in place during the best weather there was for doing so. When it was legal to do so, it was pouring rain and all one was doing was washing it into streams and causing environmental damage. There is no one-fits-all system. I know the Minister was receptive when his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, asked him to extend the time during which it was legal. No farmer will spread slurry on wet ground when it is lashing rain knowing that it will be washed into watercourses.

I could go on to discuss many other issues——

I am afraid the Senator will not be able to do so this evening.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach is about to silence me.

We all have a duty to protect the environment and to hand it on to the next generation in a better state than we found it. If we do not continue to be constructive, rather than being destructive, in many cases we will not do so.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Áine Brady. I would also have been happy to welcome her predecessor in the House who made a very valiant stand this evening. Very often these Wednesday evening debates during Private Members' time are an opportunity for posturing, with a tit for tat routine that means absolutely nothing. However, this evening we have learned a certain amount and I am grateful to the Labour Party for tabling the motion which provoked a significant response from the Minister. It was the best performance I had seen from him in the House. The contribution of Senator Boyle was spirited and absolutely passionate. It came not only from the mind but also from the heart, which is what gives the House real value.

With all the passion we have, we should be on the same side because we are fighting over the same environment, whatever party and ideological framework we come from. In this light, as there was very little that could be offensive to the Government in the Labour Party motion, I told the Labour Party that the only part with which I could see a problem was where it sought the early enactment of climate change legislation promised by the Government but not yet delivered. That statement is factual because I was in the House when Senator Bacik presented her Climate Protection Bill. At that stage she was an independent university Senator. It is a fine piece of work and the Minister was in considerable sympathy with her and gave an undertaking, with a timeframe, that it would be introduced. This was not met, but it was because of the complex difficulties outlined by the Minister this evening. I asked the Labour Party representative, Senator Hannigan, whether he would agree to delete that phrase in order that I could speak with the Government representative, which I did. However, it was considered that my intervention was a little too late, although it might have been accepted. I say this because there is a constructive feeling, despite the dramatics this evening, which I certainly welcome, as they indicated the sincerity of the participants.

I was also told there might be a little difficulty with the final phrase, "remedial measures to address hazardous waste sites, including at Haulbowline, County Cork". However, if I were on the Government side, I would state the Minister answered this very clearly when he indicated this is exactly what was being done. He has stated that in recent years Cork County Council has carried out a comprehensive site investigation, initiated ongoing environmental monitoring at established monitoring points, decontaminated and demolished the steelworks buildings and arranged for site surface clearance. The problem is presented by what may be contained in the infill and soil. The behaviour of the steelworks under its new ownership certainly broke every possible environmental regulation. The Minister stated, "Under my watch, more has been spent on environmental remediation at Haulbowline in a 12-month period than was spent in the previous 68-year history of the site." That should make it perfectly easy for him to accept the final clause of the Labour Party motion because the answer is contained in his speech. It was very sad that an Irish business, Irish Steel, was sold off to an Indian speculator for a nominal sum with no restrictions placed on operations at the plant and no requirement to engage in remedial action. It was an unwholesome episode.

I have consistently raised the issue of water quality. I was delighted to hear a passionate speech from Senator Coffey. It is great to have Members in the House who can speak with such conviction and such a level of knowledge and expertise without reading every word from a script. If it is not seen as patronising, I commend the Senator for making an excellent speech. I was very pleased to hear him talk about cryptosporidiosis and hope he will not mind when I say I brought up the issue some time ago before his election. I was briefed by the university in which I taught on the subject, as it was seen to be of considerable importance. It was so new at that stage that I asked someone to spell the word "cryptosporidiosis" and I am glad to say I was so well briefed that I was able to do so.

We have had a negative judgment recently from the European Court of Justice concerning the quality of our drinking water. Nobody could be happy with the levels of contamination which is a source of real concern. Large sections of our society, Galway in particular, as the Minister of State will know, have been left without drinking water for considerable periods of time, which is scandalous and intolerable, as we are not living in the middle of a desert. Water is not a resource which should be unmanageable. It is a management problem which needs to be looked at.

I would be prepared, rather than delighted, to pay water charges. I believe in the polluter pays principle and that the consumer should pay in accordance with his or her means. There are people who find themselves in more difficult socio-economic circumstances who rely on local authority housing, for example, who should not be badly hit by water charges, but I would be happy to pay as long as I had a good water supply of the proper quality. The Minister of State can include me as somebody who would be happy to pay. I welcome metering because one should pay for what one consumes. I have a house in a very remote area of Cyprus in an agricultural village on the Troodos mountains. It is not the most advanced and sophisticated environment, but my water supply is metered. I do not see why it should be beyond the technical capacity of the authorities in Ireland to introduce it here. I am very glad it is being introduced because it is fair and one should pay for what one consumes.

On other aspects of water contamination, I agree with Senator Ellis. I am aware that the inflexible application of rules can be inappropriate in the spreading of slurry. Farming is a seasonal occupation. One cannot predict the weather with enormous accuracy over a long period. It is not just a question of the impact on farmers; the Senator saw things largely from their point of view when he said no sensible farmer would spread slurry when he knew it would be washed away. However, we must consider the question of where it is washed into. Only yesterday the newspapers were full of stories about another huge fish kill as a result of the release of agricultural slurry. That is a great pity.

I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of State the risks to the environment from mineral exploration. There is a horrendous, breathtaking tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, involving BP, where millions of gallons of oil are being spewed out. There are large question marks against technical efficiency levels, the ignoring of advice and turning away from the necessity to plug a potential leak in one of the control systems. BP is one of the major oil companies which I ask the Minister of State to bear in mind when we are examining Shell. Deep sea exploration is taking place in the Corrib field and the people of County Mayo have been rightly protesting about their situation where we handed over — just as Irish Steel was handed over for £1 to a speculator which led to damage further down the line — our oil and gas resources for nothing. Exploration is difficult and one has to tempt people with bait, but we have the worst tax yield in the world and a system under which the ordinary people who choose to protest against something which may very well be dangerous, inimical to their welfare and threaten their homes bear the brunt of an attack upon them by Shell, sadly aided by the organs of the State. Like I think everybody else, I am in favour of protecting the environment.

I am very glad that Senator Ellis skirted the possibility of making an attack upon An Tasice. I almost thought I saw the words "An Taisce" forming on his lips, but they did not because the Senator and I know that what An Taisce stated about the dangers presented by one-off housing in the countryside has been absolutely borne out by the pollution of groundwater. There is no question about this. Now there is barely a mention about having to pick up the cost of remedial action. I express my continuing support of An Taisce——

The Senator should not forget his rural constituents.

On a point of order——

I am thinking of their welfare.

I call Senator Ellis on a point of order.

If the good Senator is going to embroil me in a row with himself and An Taisce——-

That is not a point of order.

——he is wrong. I never mentioned An Taisce, but the one thing I did say——

(Interruptions).

——was that the EPA could give people guidelines in order that they could rectify any problems.

I am not a member of An Taisce.

The Senator has no intention of joining.

Absolutely. I was not monitoring the lips of any other Member of the House while Senator Norris was speaking. For future reference, I imagine the residents of the beautiful hamlet in northern Cyprus would like to build one-off rural houses and enjoy the same privileges as Senator Norris.

On a point of order, it is located in southern Cyprus.

That is not a point of order.

In concluding the debate I thank all Senators from both sides of the House who contributed.

The Senator might like to know there is now very strict planning legislation in place in Cyprus.

Please forgive my ignorance, but the best of luck to anyone with a once-off rural house in northern or southern Cyprus.

It is true, as Senator Norris said, that we all talk about the environment. We all care about it and it is very important that we inspire to initiate debates on various environmental issues. It is healthy to revisit such good initiatives as Senator Bacik's Climate Change Bill.

I mention an initiative run in conjunction with An Taisce, critical as I have been of it during the years, the green flag initiative. I had the honour of attending my local primary school last Friday and hoisting its second green flag in a two year period. Earlier this week I attended Scoil Bhríde in Ballydehob which has hoisted its third green flag. It is wonderful to see such good environmental practice and a sense of duty and interest among local communities. It is also good to instill a sense of active citizenship in young people and bring them into the decision making process from a very early age.

I examined the literature and documentation in St. Mary's primary school in Dunmanway last Friday and it was wonderful to see the seven steps listed and the manner in which they were carried out diligently without fault or failure. It is a wonderful scheme which educates a whole new generation and ensures, as Senator Ellis said, that we will leave this planet in as good a state, if not better, than we found it because we are only temporary custodians. We should always be cognisant of the fact that there will be future generations, to whom we have a sense of duty. If there ever was an international event to frighten or remind us of our sense of duty, it is the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It is truly appalling to see millions of tonnes of oil spewing out into the gulf, wiping out marine wildlife and severely damaging what has been a good and vibrant seafood sector. I do not think the $20 billion BP has pledged to provide will ease the damage in the short term. It is shameful to see such a development in the third millennium. Despite the wealth and technology of advanced nations, we are absolutely powerless. One imagines from the pictures on the television that it would be easy to address the problem but, unfortunately, that is far from the case.

I wish to focus on the aspect of the motion that pertains to Haulbowline. Senator Boyle and others will acknowledge the cross-party support that exists around the harbour for a baseline health study. In July 2008 the Minister, Deputy Gormley, visited the area with Senator Boyle and he appears to have taken on board the concerns raised by residents because he stated in the Dáil afterwards:

Yesterday I spoke to the residents about the idea of a baseline health study and, indeed, it has been suggested by my colleague, Senator Dan Boyle, for quite some time...I do not profess to have great knowledge in this area. Certainly, a baseline study is to be recommended and I will go to Cabinet with that.

The National Cancer Registry indicates that the incidence of cancer in the area is 37% higher than the national average. A baseline health study is needed to rule out the possibility of a connection between the thousands of tonnes of toxic waste dumped on the former Irish Steel site and the area's cancer rate. In the light of the discovery by a German company that the waste included chromium(VI), such a study is essential. Unfortunately, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, refuses to make a decision on the matter. We should revisit the commitment that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, gave in good faith and take account of the political consensus in the area which demands a baseline study to give people a sense of the issue and to rule out the possibility that toxic waste is causing cancer. We are entitled to that study.

A Minister gave a commitment in good faith only for another Minister to make a contrary decision. The Minister, Deputy Harney, must have received advice on the issue and if this advice led to her conclusion, elected representatives are entitled to have it made available to us. I appeal to my Government colleagues to subscribe to the political consensus by asking her to reveal whether she received environmental and scientific advice and whether it took cognisance of the National Cancer Registry figures for the area. Did her advisers share the opinion of the German company regarding chromium(VI)? If we are to allay the fears of the people of the area, it is essential we ask her to publish her advice.

I thank speakers for their contributions, irrespective of the side that they argued. This debate was a healthy use of Private Members' time.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Camillus Glynn and Niall Ó Brolcháin; Níl, Senators Michael McCarthy and Brendan Ryan.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.