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

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

Before the debate was adjourned I was referring to the importance of a relatively clean environment, clean food and a good image from the point of view of exports and tourism. In that context I should also like to say that the proposed agency should not be shy of local RTCs, universities, institutions and groups involved in environmental monitoring and research. I would include here the excellent work done by local authority laboratories such as the one run by Meath County Council.

This Bill must represent a balance between the national and local authorities and a balance between industry and the environment. It cannot and must not be seen as anti-industry, because its aim is to ensure that all sectors of the economy are developed within standards of cleanliness that will ensure the quality of our environment and contribute to maintaining the image we have abroad of a truly green landscape. There is no contradiction between this and job creation. That has been stressed in the whole idea behind the legislation and the setting up of this body. We must get away from the notion that the interests of industry and those of the environment are necessarily in competition with one another, because they are not. This is especially so in contentious areas such as aquaculture, peat excavation, offshore oil exploration and agri-business. Instead, we must stress the importance of balance — a balance between the need to protect the environment and the need for social and economic development. As I said at the outset, this sense of balance is reflected in the nature of the diverse sectoral welcome for the Bill.

I welcome also the proposal in relation to environmental impact studies, and again they are being streamlined under one agency. However, given the spirit of openness that characterises the Bill, I hope its intent to make such information more easily available will be honoured.

Section 59 seeks to involve the Environmental Protection Agency in the management of waste. While I understand that more specific proposals will be brought before the House soon, the Environmental Protection Agency has set an important agenda here. Local authorities will continue to monitor landfills, but in liaison with the proposed Environmental Protection Agency. However, the cost of waste management is considerable for any local authority and is something that has caused difficulties for virtually every local authority in recent times. While I commend the Government for the development of more modernised water and sewage schemes in various parts of the country, they must be developed in association with a modernised waste disposal system and should be given the same priority because they have the same relevance.

One way to answer this problem is to deal with it at source and in a sense that is what the Bill proposes to do. I wish the Bill well in this regard. Given the Government's thoroughness with this Bill, I would hate to see its intent undermined by the failure to address the problem of actual waste disposal as well as waste creation, which is what the Bill is trying to curtail. The problem of waste disposal is evident and poses difficulties for every local authority.

I mentioned earlier that the Bill suggests balance; it suggests partnership between national and local government and between official bodies and the public at large. This sense of balance is reflected, too, in the composition of the Environmental Protection Agency board. I would like to draw attention to this board because it is balanced and positive. Representation on the board will include the chairperson of An Taisce, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the managing director of the IDA. The IDA will represent the various sectors of industry. This board could have been drawn from a narrower base, but the inclusion of the managing director of the IDA and the secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is a positive step. I am particularly pleased that the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women is proposed as a board member, under section 21. This reflects well on the Government and on their policy of ensuring that women participate and take part in State boards and semi-State boards. We would all agree there is room for continued improvement in that whole area. It is good to note it is mentioned specifically in this legislation that the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women would be a board member.

As I mentioned earlier, the local authority constitutes an important part of the proposed new structures and does much work in this area. Accordingly, would the Minister consider the possibility of appointing somebody from the General Council of County Councils to the board because of their involvement in this area?

The proposed Bill marks a major breakthrough. It is detailed and thorough legislation and deals with the protection of the environment, an area in which we are all interested. I think everybody welcomes the fact that a national agency is now being established to ensure that this area is looked at on a national basis. I commend the Bill to the House and I congratulate those responsible for bringing it to this stage.

I welcome this Bill. However, I must qualify that by saying I hope this legislation does not end up as another piece of unfinished business, like the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act which started life in this House over six years ago and is still part of an ongoing process within Dublin County Council and in local authorities generally. While waiting for the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act to be implemented fully within county councils on the planning front, major undesired developments are occurring throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. This Bill gives me an opportunity, as a person who represents one of the most scenic and high amenity areas of Dublin city, to speak in defence of such invaluable national assets. Will the Bill before the House afford any protection against such undesirable developments, or will it end up as another piece of unfinished business within local authorities?

In essence, what I am saying is this: I am not happy with the speed and the pace of imlementation of the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act which to date has not been implemented within Dublin County Council. I hope this legislation, which seems to be what is desired, is implemented much quicker than the three years which some commentators say it will take to fully implement. While local authorities are making every effort to implement the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act and while they will make every effort to implement this Bill as quickly as possible, developers are carrying out the rape of such scenic areas as Howth Head and Sutton and every green space is threatened with extinction by developers who wish to plan Bel Air or Dallas type housing, completely ruining some of the most scenic sites in western Europe. So serious is the threat on this scale to the environment in north-east Dublin that the residents of Howth peninsula and Sutton have come together in an effort to bring pressure to bear on local authorities and on the Government to save such sites of scenic and environmental importance. The Howth Sutton 2,000 group is completely voluntary. With the help on a voluntary basis of architects and planners they are now identifying sites of such significance and merit in the Howth peninsula. The east mountain of Howth is still threatened with development as is the large area of Carrickbrack, close to Sutton. If Dublin County Council cannot find enough money or exchange lands and purchase the interest of such developers, these scenic sites will be lost forever.

I wish to turn now to one of the most scenic and best amenities in Dublin. Here I refer to the cliff walks, the rights of way and the Hill of Howth. Some of these walks, which start from the most scenic areas of Dublin Bay in the Sutton area and work their way right around to Howth Harbour, are an invaluable asset. However, they have not been taken in charge by the local authority and the Government does not seem to interest themselves in such amenities. The only way one can interest oneself in such amenities is to put money up front and ensure that such rights of way and such cliff walks which are so near the city are properly presented by way of leaflets explaining the historical sites around these walks. Tourists who come to Dublin like to get out and see the countryside and see Dublin as it is. This amenity on our doorsteps is completely neglected.

Dublin County County have made every effort to have the walks brought up to date. It is impossible to take a walk around that area without running into brambles and injuring oneself as the area is completely overgrown. There is no proper hard core or paving on these rights of way. Dublin County Council have tried to operate schemes through FÁS and the Department of Labour. Though they made every effort last year, the Department of Labour were not able to sanction such schemes and Dublin County Council were unable to take on staff to do anything about the walks. People were prepared to put in some work. However, they could not liaise with Dublin County Council and do such works because a programme was not put in place since the Department of Labour did not sanction the schemes. The rights of way are there and locals are still pressing to have some scheme put in place by Dublin County Council which would need finance from Government. Will the Minister look into it and see if finance can be put at the disposal of Dublin County Council so that they can take the rights of way in charge from An Taisce and look after them properly so that they can be used as an amenity and to encourage tourism?

The rights of way about which I talk could be extended to take in Howth Harbour, Sutton, Baldoyle and Baldoyle Estuary. Baldoyle Estuary was granted the status of an estuary and it is famous as an overwintering place for Brent geese and other species of birds which we like to welcome in the winter and which we want to protect. If the walks could be extended to the Baldoyle area and around the estuary it would be a wonderful natural amenity. This estuary is twinned with the Polar Bear Pass in Canada and it has the full support of the Irish Wildlife Conservancy as an estuary. I know that the Department of the Marine and the Board of Works, who were responsible for having the estuary declared as such, are making every effort to put the infrastructure there. I am talking about putting in hides from which ornithologists can study the birds who overwinter there and about putting in paving or some sort of a road so that it is accessible to Dubliners and tourists. People could start from O'Connell Street, work their way out to Sutton and Howth and use the rights of way right into Baldoyle to this wonderful amenity at Baldoyle Estuary. Ornithologists and other environmentalists could study birds and could generally enjoy the wonderful amenity there.

Will this Bill help local authorities to ward off undesirable developments? If it would, I welcome it. The only sure way to protect high amenity areas is to have a special amenity area order declared. I understand that there are four special amenity orders in the pipeline. Work is presently taking place in relation to the Liffey valley special amenity area and I understand that a special amenity area order for the Howth and surrounding districts is placed third in priority with the Dublin County Council. Will this legislation allow for such special amenity area orders and when set up will the expertise in the agency have the wherewithal to deal with special amenity area orders and will the agency have the power to declare such orders? Perhaps the Minister is summing up will let me have this information.

This Bill should be enacted as soon as possible to stop the stampede of developers trying to beat the legislation. The onslaught of developers in the areas of Howth and Sutton must be stopped. I hope this Bill contains the remedy.

Sewage pollution of Dublin beaches is relatively slight considering the volume of effluent which enters the waters, according to a recent report. It is imperative that we cease dumping raw sewage in Dublin Bay in order to bring to an end an intolerable problem which is worthy of the Middle Ages. At present most Dublin sewage is processed through the corporation treatment plant at Ringsend, which is in need of further upgrading. This would cost in the region of £45 million. On the far side of the bay the north Dublin drainage scheme empties totally untreated sewage into the sea beside Howth Harbour. The scheme, which starts at Finglas, serves all the large housing estates, factories and hospitals on the north side of Dublin and it discharges raw sewage into the sea beside Howth Harbour. Factors such as tide, wind and the length of time which bacteria live in sea water combine to minimise the effects of sewage effluent, according to a recent report.

Beaches such as Donabate, Malahide and Rush received the blue flag award in 1990. It is encouraging to note that the awards were given to seven beaches in the present year, those beaches being Donabate, Rush, Portmarnock, Portrane, Malahide, Skerries and Sutton. I welcome the fact that Sutton received the blue flag award this year because it is so near the Nose of Howth where raw sewage from the north side is dumped and is washing back towards beaches. However, Sutton escaped this year and I welcome that. Dollymount Strand did not have the water quality to qualify for a blue flag award. I regret that, but I am glad it received a special award for the lack of rubbish on the beaches and for the way the interpretative centre there do their business.

It seems to be the present Government decision to spend most of the money available for sewage treatment on the Ringsend plant. This plant serves mainly the south side of the city. There is not any mention of money being made available to establish a similar sewage treatment works on the north side. Is it Government policy to continue to treat north side citizens as second class? Is it Government policy to continue with the dumping of raw sewage off the nose of Howth, systematically polluting beaches traditionally used by northsiders? That is something the Minister should take on board. Most of the money has been put into the Ringsend works. I am not satisfied that the Ringsend plant is doing its job either and some of the waste coming into the water from Ringsend washes over to the Howth area. More money is to be made available to update the Ringsend's works and that should be done as soon as possible to stop it polluting the north side.

Dublin Bay should be environmentally managed for the benefit of thousands of Dubliners who use it every year. A recent report tells us that 15,000 people go sailing, 30,000 go boating or cruising and that about 250,000 go walking. That is why I mentioned the walks which could start in O'Connell Street, go out by Clontarf, out to Sutton, around the Hill of Howth, around by the harbour and so on. The rights of way are there but they are not being maintained. The Department should make money available to Dublin County Council to make those rights of way accessible to people and have this wonderful amenity restored. About 250,000 people go walking, 1,500 people use the bay for angling and over 250,000 go to the beaches every year. The report also reveals that most of the complaints received from the general public were about water quality. Litter pollution and odours caused by pollution were of major concern.

A detailed monitoring programme is of the utmost importance. This should include water quality surveys, measurements of waste discharged into the bay and studies of algae growth. With proper monitoring and management, beaches and shoreline waters will improve and the amount of sewage and plastic will reduce considerably. Will the agency have the power to carry out such monitoring and management of Dublin Bay waters?

Nowadays we are worried about the provision of jobs. We are trying to get cleaner industries, cleaner air, a cleaner environment and protection for our natural resources. If we do not get it right in protecting the environment and if this agency does not work well but becomes another body that attends half heartedly to matters, it will not make effective decisions. It is important that the Minister should move ahead with all possible speed to ensure that the agency is set up as soon as possible. What timescale does the Minister of State envisage as undue delay that would be a sign we are not taking the protection of the environment seriously?

A few moments ago I referred to the environment of the Dublin north-east area. Recently Dublin Corporation granted permission for the construction of over 900 houses in the St. Michael's-Grange Road area, which is known locally as the "Hole in the Wall". I said earlier that the north Dublin drainage scheme starts at Finglas and works its way to the Nose of Howth, serving each estate, industry and hospital along the way. The residents of the area do not object to a further 900 houses being connected to the scheme, but what they do object to is the fact that 35 to 40 houses in the area known as the Hole in the Wall have no sewerage facilities and that their occupants have to depend on toilets which in this day and age could only be described as medieval. They have spoken to the developer who intends to build these 900 houses but he has given them no encouragement. It is his intention to build a road which would connect with the Hole in the Wall Road, which is the main road from the Donaghmede area and leads on to the Airport. Therefore, one can imagine the volume of traffic on this road.

The developer has informed the residents that in providing such sewerage facilities he would have to erect a pumping station at a cost to the residents of £30,000 to £40,000, money which they do not have. The point I am trying to make is that we have housing within eight miles of Dublin city which does not have proper toilets and the residents of which have to depend on septic tanks. The smell from these tanks during the summer is unbelievable. This should not be tolerated in this day and age. Dublin Corporation should talk to the residents and make sure they are provided with proper sewage facilities. They already have water facilities. Needless to say, the developer will be able to tap into this resource. Dublin Corporation should make sure that the developer, who is seeking further permission, provides proper sewerage facilities to the residents of that area. Having said that, the Hole in the Wall is not all that far away from the pipe in Kinsealy. I ask the Minister of State to look into this matter to see if these houses could be connected to the pipe to make sure that they have proper sewerage facilities. That would be most welcome.

Also close by stands Baldoyle Racecourse, which over the years has been the subject of many planning applications. The Encamp development which was proposed a few years ago would have led to the creation of another concrete jungle which would have completely ruined the environment of the Baldoyle area. However, the local residents and others came together to launch a campaign to make sure that no undesirable development took place in the Baldoyle Racecourse.

Baldoyle Racecourse, however, which comprises 60 acres, forms only a small part of the land mass of the owners, who own approximately 600 acres in the area. It was their intention to build a new town but, as I said, local residents and other groups came together to ensure that that development did not take place. Part of the coastal area is zoned high amenity which they will not be allowed develop. However, behind this and backing on to the famous sewerage pipe I have spoken about at the Baskin Cottages lie the remaining 540 acres. This is a wonderful area and it should be preserved.

The people of Baldoyle and the surrounding areas are not naive and they know that in time to come there will have to be some development, but they do not want a concrete jungle. Recently some developers suggested that there should be limited development with provision made for golf clubs, an interpretative centre beside the Baldoyle Estuary, which would be most welcome, a hotel and other developments. They want to build a shopping centre, but that may not be acceptable to the residents. What we are saying is that it would be most welcome if they set aside open space on which a golf course, a pitch and putt course and other facilities, such as a running track and other open air facilities, could be constructed.

Given that this site is located beside the airport and the DART stations at Sutton, Kilbarrack and Bayside and that there is no traffic congestion between the city and Baldoyle, it would be an ideal site for the national sports centre. I also note that the site suggested by the Government on the quays has run into trouble. This site at Baldoyle should be looked at as it would be the ideal place for the sports centre. It is right beside Baldoyle Estuary and near to Howth where water sport facilities could be provided at a very low cost. It is also beside some of the best golf courses in Europe, including Portmarnock. I hope the Minister of State will take this suggestion on board to see if it would be feasible. I am not happy at the way in which the Department have tried to split the complex among certain areas; it should be maintained in one unit. We should locate the training centre, football pitches, running track and soccer stadium on this site on the old Baldoyle Racecourse. This would be welcomed by the residents and the people of the north side of Dublin. When this site was used as a racecourse it attracted people from the North of Ireland and abroad who used the airport. I understand that the owners of the site would welcome such an approach. I suggest therefore that the Department of the Environment should speak to them. If they do they will be able to buy a site more cheaply in the Baldoyle area and could protect the environment by locating the national sports centre there. This would be welcomed by the citizens of Dublin.

Another site in my area which has been the subject of media attention over years is the Red Rock site. Once again, the local residents and others came together to ensure that no development took place on eight acres of that site. This was a wonderful victory for the local residents associations. Dublin County Council also came to our rescue and put up £500,000 to satisfy the developer, who wished to develop this wonderful amenity which would have interfered with the local walks which cross the Hill of Howth, including the famous walk to which I have referred which runs from the city to Howth Head and on to Baldoyle. However Dublin County Council seem to be having a problem in getting the developer to accept what is on offer. A land deal has been made but he is not happy with that. We are worried that this site may come under threat once again if the developer does not accept what is on offer. Could the Department make finance available to the council to compete the deal and to protect forever the Red Rock site, which, as I say, is a wonderful amenity? Perhaps the Minister will take this matter on board.

One could not talk about the north-east of Dublin without mentioning the wonderful amenity of Howth harbour. It is a marvellous development, into which the Department of the Marine and successive Governments over the years put £13 million and created a harbour worthy of the highest praise. We are very happy with it. The harbour has landings worth £4 million per year and creates good employment. The allied industries which have been set up in the area have been very clean. The ship repairing business is excellent but they have to bring the boats across the road to the west pier, an uncovered area, to repair them. However, that is a matter for another Department and we will be looking for finance in that regard.

I worry about the fact that the harbour is very close to the village and needs a sewage treatment works to cope with the pollution in the area. I hope the Minister will treat this matter with urgency. The sewage is ruining the spawning beds and the fish life. Fishermen will tell you that there is no point in looking for lobster in the Howth area. Dublin Bay prawns used to be on the menus of good restaurants but they have now disappeared. Employment in the fishing industry is practically nil although, of course, trawling has made a difference and has upset the beds. Raw sewage affects the beds and the famous Howth herring cannot reproduce themselves. It is a long time since the Howth herring was on a menu.

A proper treatment works in the north Dublin drainage scheme would cost a lot of money but it would solve many problems. It would bring back fishing, help tourism and the harbour. If the Minister takes just one point from my speech I ask her to ensure that whatever money she can get from the European Community — which would be welcomed by the people in Howth and the surrounding district — will be spent on the north Dublin drainage scheme in the Howth area. A sewage treatment works as good as the one in Ringsend would be adequate for our needs although we would welcome a more elaborate one. I hope the Minister will consider that point.

I compliment the Government on bringing this Bill before the House. In 1987 the Programme for National Recovery proposed various strategies for developing our natural resources. By any standards it was an ambitious programme and its strategies for development in areas such as tourism, the food industry and so on, are now carried forward in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The Government also recognise that agriculture and industrial development must be balanced by a public policy which is environmentally sound. For example, it is pointless pouring vast sums of money into tourism if, on the other hand, we tarnish our image as a country with clean air, clean water and clean soil.

The Bill is part of a much wider strategy. On one level it represents the most far-reaching review of our environmental law since the foundation of the State; on a second level it represents the Government's commitment to ensuring that, as we move through the nineties, a proper balance will be maintained between developmental policies and conservation, which is most important for the development and creation of jobs within our economy. We should maintain the balance between developmental works and conservation and if we get the balance right I am convinced that we can make major inroads in the present unemployment.

In a sense we have taken the cleanliness of our environment for granted and, to a certain extent, there are historical reasons for this. We never developed the great industrial bases of our European neighbours and, consequently, we avoided much of the pollution which has destroyed most of the Black Forest as well as the Rhine and the other great rivers of Europe. Accordingly, much of our environmental law has evolved on an ad hoc basis and, to a certain extent, its diverse administration reflects this.

As our country moves from its near total reliance on agriculture, the limitations of our laws become more apparent. There is nothing wrong with such economic redirection but it would be worrying if we did not balance this with an adequate system of monitoring and controlling our environment. Since they came to office the Government have actively pursued this agenda, notably during the period of our Presidency of the EC, better known as the Green Presidency. It is important to stress the national and international dimensions of Government strategy. A few years ago we were all dismayed at what happened in Chernobyl, we were even more dismayed that its direct effects were felt as far away as the sheep farms of Wales. In a similar vein it is short-sighted not to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer on the basis that it only affects the polar regions. What all this adds up to is that any effective environmental policy must be part of a wider agenda. As I said, this agenda was largely set out during our EC Presidency; here I want to pay special tribute to the Taoiseach for the tremendous work he did in advocating the Green Presidency. I compliment his Ministers and Ministers of State——

Will the Deputy compliment him next week?

Indeed I will and be proud to do so. We must ensure that this work is carried through and that we have a strong, Community-wide environmental protection agency which might deal with the broader issues, including the ongoing scandal of Sellafield.

I should also like to take this opportunity of complimenting my fellow Wexford Oireachtas Members in the early seventies, in particular my own Fianna Fáil organisation, for ensuring that a policy decision taken by a Fianna Fáil Government at that time was reversed. I speak about the decision by the then Minister, Deputy Des O'Malley, to build a nuclear power station in Carnsore in my constituency. While I read today of the many objections to the Sellafield plant — they are justified objections — I realise that without the wisdom, foresight and political mechanisms used by my Oireachtas colleagues and my own organisation in Wexford, we could be facing a very serious situation today in my constituency and in the country as a whole.

The Bill before the House today is part of a broader EC strategy. I am glad to note that it allows for close co-operation and liaison between the proposed Environmental Protection Agency on the one hand and European and other international agencies and bodies on the other. The Bill shows thought, thoroughness and responsibility. As the Minister has already given a detailed report on the Bill I will not go through the schedule here. However, I want to make one specific point about the location of the proposed agency. I may be accused of being parochial but if that is the case, so be it.

I regard the facility at Johnstown Castle, County Wexford, as a national institution with a deserved national reputation. Johnstown has had a distinguished place in the whole area of advisory services and research. Under the leadership of the late Dr. Tom Walsh in particular, Johnstown established a national reputation for its unique survey of soil types as well as for its research of plant disorders. More generally its experts played a decisive role in the areas of water, soil and air-related studies, a role that was appreciated by the farming community and the industrial sector alike.

I would urge the Government to ensure that Johnstown serve this new agency as proposed for the nineties just as it served in the sixties when it was operated by An Foras Talúntais and prior to that when it was used for agricultural education and research under the terms of the Johnstown Castle Agriculture Act, 1945. At that time it provided advice to local authorities of the kind envisaged in this Bill. Indeed the Bill not only builds on this tradition but also extends it. As I said at the outset, the agency will have a much more comprehensive structure and will set an agenda that will be determined by the long term rather than the short term interest of our community. As I have said, I regard this Bill as a milestone in the evolution of Ireland's environmental policy. I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Harney, for bringing this Bill before us and, without hesitation, I commend it to the House.

This is a long-awaited Bill but at last it has come into this House after a difficult passage through the Seanad. Despite all our good wishes, I am disappointed with the Bill. It effectively takes from the control of the elected representative of the people the functions of environmental protection. The Fine Gael spokesman, Deputy Jim Mitchell, pointed out that this party will be moving an amendment which will ensure that there will be involvement by this House in the role of the Environmental Protection Agency.

If the events of recent months have taught us anything it is that politicians, public representatives, are the people best equipped to deal with the structures of the State, be it in the services area, the whole area of local government or health. When we allow the activities of bodies to go outside the control of public representatives strange things can happen. We are accountable to the people who elect us and we have to seek re-election, sometimes after nine or ten months but at least every five years. The people can give their verdict on us at the end of five years. Unfortunately some of the bodies that have been set up in the past and took control away from the public representatives have not acquitted themselves with honour.

I am extremely discouraged that the Environmental Protection Agency will be a body similar in ways to An Bord Pleanála. Strange things happened at one stage in the area of planning but stranger things are happening now with the activities of An Bord Pleanála. That body are not accountable to anybody. They can overrule decisions of local authorities and nobody can question their performance or their decisions because they are "independent". In other words, they are not accountable. Some of the decisions taken by them in my own city and in other parts of the country are disgraceful and bring that body into question. However, we are not dealing with them today. Here again we are setting up another agency that will not have to account to this House, and that is a major defect in the Bill.

This Bill was long heralded. It is good to see that at last the whole question of environmental protection has become a political issue. For far too long — I am going back to my early days in the House, 1981 to 1983 — when you talked about environmental protection, pollution and nuclear waste, people looked at you as if you had two heads. They did not understand what it was and they did not care. It was not a political issue. The only person in this House who had any interest in the matter, and I pay tribute to him, was a colleague from the other side, Deputy Gerard Brady. He came in here week in and week out and raised issues in relation to the environment, issues such as Windscale, as it was known then, and the disposal of nuclear and toxic waste. Deputy Brady and I raised these issues but people did not want to hear us. I am not being political in this; I am condemning all Governments in the past.

It was only after the disaster at Chernobyl that people sat up and took notice. That was not only a disaster for the USSR; but also an international disaster, a disaster that crossed territorial and continental lines. As the previous speaker said, we suffered the effects of the Chernobyl fall-out in the mountainous areas of the country. It took a disaster like that to make us sit up and take notice. It made us aware of the wide range of issues that come under the umbrella of the environment and environmental protection.

I want to refer to our structures in this area. At one stage I counted the number of bodies in this country dealing with environmental protection.

I will refer now to the structure in place to deal with environmental problems. In the mid-eighties I counted 13 bodies dealing with environmental protection, comprising Government Departments, local authorities and other agencies. There were overlaps but there were also gaps in the level of monitoring. The local authorities dealt with water and air pollution inadequately and that remains the case through no fault of theirs because they are starved of cash. When local authorities make the decision to spend money they spend in areas where there is a far greater political demand on their resources. In my opinion protection of the environment is very far down on the agenda of most local authorities. In sensitive areas, for example where there is a chemical factory, the local authorities have attempted to equip themselves to deal with the modern-day problems arising from modern industries with their limited resources.

In the aftermath of Chernobyl the health boards were running around like headless chickens. They were not equipped to deal with possible contamination of the milk supplies. They did not have iodine tablets available and did not know what to do. I cannot really blame them because at the time this issue was low on the political agenda.

The Department of the Marine deals with the issue of dumping at sea, the Department of Energy deal with nuclear issues, the Department of the Environment deal with similar issues and, of course, the Department of Health are involved also. Indeed, the fisheries boards are involved. That is an indication of the disjointed and innefficient approach to the question of environmental protection and it continues.

The Environmental Protection Agency will bring ideas and a new approach to the problem but ideas without resources and without commitment are not much good. Since the early eighties Windscale — now called Sellafield — has become more controversial as evidence accumulated to show that Windscale was a threat to our environment and the health of our people. That project is of no economic benefit to the people of this country but because of its proximity it is a threat to our people. It has become a big issue. The people who went to investigate Windscale, later called Sellafield, are convinced that it is an unsafe plant. I will outline the reasons why we cannot face up to Britain on this issue.

After two visits to the plant I came to the conclusion that it was very unsafe and that a great deal of the information that should be forthcoming is not forthcoming. I am not happy with the lines of communication that are supposed to exist between our Government and the British Government on Sellafield. I hope the Government will honour the commitments made by Ministers when in Opposition to bring this issue to international fora and take Britain through the courts to try to close down Sellafield. I agree with Deputy Dukes who made a detailed and well researched contribution this morning, that this is just a pipedream because we have been compromised by our lack of an environmental policy. The first thing we should do — I ask the Minister to set it out in her reply to the debate — is put in place a national environmental protection policy because we do not have one at present? We are establishing an agency but we do not have a clear policy.

Yesterday the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, spoke about the disposal of toxic waste. When asked about the proposed toxic waste disposal plant in Derry he replied in his usual way that plans were being drafted, consultations were ongoing, that the Department were in contact with companies and that in due course we would have a decision on a toxic waste plant. In the meantime, he said, the proposal to build such a plant in Derry will take care of our immediate problem. That is a typical Irish solution to an Irish problem — export our problem abroad.

The absence of a waste management programme here has cost us dearly. I had occasion a month ago to meet industrialists who were visiting Cork city with a view to locating industry there. One of the issues raised was the question of the disposal of industrial waste. The absence of a clear-cut policy in relation to industrial waste will be a big factor in that company's decision on where to locate. Companies choose to locate elsewhere in the world because we have no policy in this area.

We will be in a mess in a few years time if we are told by the EC to dispose of our waste on our own territory if we have not reached a decision on how to dispose of toxic waste. What will we do? Are we going to wait until the alarm bells go before we make a decision? A national waste management policy should be prepared by Government and pubished so that we will at least know where we stand. Not only do we have a problem in regard to the disposal of chemical and toxic waste but local authorities need to know where they stand in relation to the disposal of domestic waste. The days are fast passing when we can open a hole in the ground and dump in domestic waste and all that goes with it. There are no controls at many tipheads and we do not know — indeed many do not care — what is going on. To be parochial for a moment, we have a problem with a landfill site in Cork. In the absence of clear information and direction from the Government we do not know how to plan the next step in our waste management programme. We do not know whether to go down the line of incineration, or recycling. There seems to be a limited policy of recycling. Grants are available to certain companies. A company who got a grant last year from the Department of the Environment were out of business within a matter of months while another company with a long track record did not get the grant which would have allowed them to use their expertise to develop their recycling operaton. It was a case of the newcomer having the right contacts. That company folded within a couple of months, and we are now back to where we were.

Admittedly one recycling project has been grant-aided and I hope they will be successful in operating a comprehensive recycling programme but that is not the approach the Government should adopt. We should have a firm policy instead of the play here and play there policy. It is inconsistent.

As I said, I believe that industrial development has been seriously hindered because of the lack of waste management policy. It has been hindered because of the lack of confidence people have in present structures. People do not have confidence in the ability of local authorities to monitor the activities of industries. Merrill Dow provided a tragic example of a major international company lost to Ireland, lost to the east Cork area. I believe that the company was lost to this country because the people of the area did not have confidence in the ability or the resources of their local authority to protect their interests. They saw what happened in Clonmel in the Hanlon case, which I shall not go into. People saw what happened there and they witnessed the inability of a local authority to protect local interests. People became scared, scaremongers took over and created opposition to Merrill Dow, and Merrill Dow eventually got tired of that and went elsewhere, taking with them the potential for 1,000 jobs. After that came a big test case in the south, Sandoz.

All the same issues came up about Sandoz, a company which I believe to have, with one unfortunate exception, a magnificent track record in environmental protection. There again people from the area for which the factory was proposed became anxious and worried because in the past their interests had not been protected adequately by their local authority. Local authorities did not have the sophisticated equipment or the knowhow or technology for many years to protect local interests through adequate monitoring. It is only in the past two or three years that that has changed. I pay tribute to the Cork County Council, which is not in my area, which, despite cutbacks, has faced up to the challenge presented by modern day industry. Sandoz is now going ahead with their project, but only after a hard and vicious battle. That company too could have been lost because of lack of clearcut vision and policy coming from central government.

The scaremongers in our community are given a free hand in that they can make outrageous claims which at times our local authorities are not equipped to answer. One evening I attended a meeting at which outrageous allegations were made against a company that was, in my opinion, performing well. Those claims were taken as gospel because there was nobody at the meeting to contradict them apart from representatives of the company itself. There again, the company, tiring of the situation, was on the point of giving in. At this stage, therefore, I call on the Government to set out clearly a national environmental protection policy in relation to industrial development, urban decay, air pollution, water pollution and a whole range of environmental issues so that people will know what is happening and will have confidence in existing structures.

I now wish to come back to the issue of international pollution, especially radioactive waste. As I said, I have spent much time and gone to much trouble considering the Sellafield plant and the problems posed by that plant. One of my most embarrassing moments occurred when I visited Sellafield for the second time in 1986 and spent two days there with British Nuclear Fuels. People from the Department of Energy came up from London to meet us, took us around the plant and were quite frank in what they had to say. On the second evening we were there we were asked to visit a waste management site about seven miles down the road. While we were at that site we were asked why we were so ready to criticise, to raise issues about nuclear waste and the disposal of nuclear waste — be it low level or high level — to query British problems about the disposal of high level waste and their proposals to build under the Irish Sea and to bury in mineshafts, when we were the very people who asked them to dispose of our waste. They pointed out that Irish nuclear waste was on their site. That example completely undermined our case if there ever was an example of a case being undermined. The nuclear waste that comes from our hospitals, universities and from our industries is exported because we do not have our own house in order. For a modern industrial country that is complete neglect. It is about time that the present Government, being in a position of authority, got its act together and came up with a comprehensive policy to deal with toxic, chemical and nuclear waste disposal, as well as a policy to deal with more everyday issues relating to the treatmnet and disposal of domestic waste. As I said, there is no point in Ireland just exporting our problems to Derry and imposing on the people of Derry and Northern Ireland the waste we have down here.

The Bill is very comprehensive. But I am worried that, even though it is a Bill of pious platitudes and lofty ideals, there will be no real allocation of resources to implement many of its proposals. More important, I am concerned that the staff and resources will not be available to enforce many of the powers that the authority will have. I should like the Minister to assure the House that adequate resources will be made available to carry out the monitoring of our seas, air and countryside.

When talking about environmental protection we seem to think immediately of our rivers and our countryside but we tend to neglect the issue of urban decay. Coming from a major urban area, urban decay is something in which I have a particular interest. The utter neglect and decay taking place in our cities is something that must be faced up to. At times we seem to be obsessed with and worried about — and we should have some concern — keeping our countryside in order lest tourists be frightened away and no longer come. We think that if we do not keep our rivers and our fields pollution free then we will not be able to sell our foodstuffs and products in the European market. Much more important than that is the environment in which many of our people live in our cities, especially in our inner cities. The environmental problems of modern day urban life have not been faced up to. I hope that the Government at some stage come forward with a comprehensive policy for the urban environment. We must set out to achieve a policy that will bring about healthy living in healthy cities, and I hope that there will be a policy aimed at healthy cities so that we could have an environment in which people can live in a proper way.

There is also the issue of traffic management in the cities. Admittedly, the Minister has brought about an improvement in that regard here in Dublin. I would not exaggerate the improvement achieved last year, because I think the climatic conditions last year were a little better than they were in the previous year. That contributed to the detectable improvement, but goes beyond smog control. We must turn our attention to monitoring the unburned hydrocarbons, the benzenes that are products of the traffic congestion in our inner cities. That is not being done. Our roads are not being designed or constructed in such a way as to ensure a free flow of traffic within our inner cities, something that should form part of any environmental protection programme.

Debate adjourned.