“Mr Wilson’s interference in the scientific work of his department..”

Friends of the Earth have picked up on the Northern Ireland Environment Minister Sammy Wilson’s rescinding of the designation of ice-age glacial deposits at Lisnaragh as an Area of Special Scientific Interest – against the advice of the Council for Nature Conservation and Countryside (CNCC), and the newly formed, if not fully independent, Northern Ireland Environment Agency – and FotE director John Woods is warning of legal action. From the iol report

Mr Woods added: “Despite the repeated assurances of his statutory advisors and officials that the geological science was robust and the consultation process comprehensive, he left this site without any legal protection. “Mr Wilson’s interference in the scientific work of his department undermines the many hardworking officials who are doing their best to give Northern Ireland’s environment the protection it deserves. “Sammy Wilson has unintentionally but convincingly made the case for an independent environmental protection agency, something he has vociferously opposed.”

Update Apparently the Minister today, 27th Nov, informed the Assembly’s Environment Committee of his intention to re-designate Lisnaragh as an ASSI.

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  • The Raven

    As far as I know, FoTE have been lobbied hard from grass roots about this one, notwithstanding the fact that it is already well on the radar. Many people living within reach of ASSIs or indeed within AONBs were watching this carefully – and not all with the same altruistic concerns for the environment.

    For anyone wondering, an area of special scientific interest is one which (by the Agency’s own definition) has “been identified by scientific survey as being of the highest degree of conservation value.” It’s like getting the VC in conservation terms. And like the VC, it is not bestowed lightly, or without due consideration.

    There are ways of living with special environments. NIEA hasn’t quite worked out how it can be done, but it’s getting there.

    But a Minister rescinding designations where a designation has been awarded for landscape features which could be damaged by economic (or other) activity does not serve the best interests of the environment.

    I hope this one goes the distance. Sammy is testing the waters with this one – it doesn’t have fluffy flowers and cuddly animals to the same degree as other ASSIs.

    But if he gets away with this one, what’s next?

  • cynic

    Advisers advise and ministers decide. That’s how Government works.

  • Oilifear

    “Advisers advise and ministers decide. That’s how Government works.”

    We know the basis of the advice. What was the basis for the decision? There is bad advice and there is bad government. Which (if either) was bad on this occasion?

    Advisers advise and ministers decide. That’s how Government works – for good or for bad. If it is bad, I would hope you would have the good sense to call it such.

  • aquifer

    “Advisers advise and ministers decide”

    But ministers are bound by the law which defines the limits of their powers.

    So are planning permissions being denied in the leafier parts of Sammy’s constituency that would be approved elsewhere?

    Would the local planning school or the RTPI have some students look at this or are they too afraid of DUP ‘decisions’?

    Is there a planning school in Dublin with nothing to lose?

  • cynic

    If a Minister breaks the law he can be reviewed but it will have to be shown that he was either behaving in a way that was absolutely illegal or was manifestly unreasonable. It isn’t always black and white and Ministers have a degree of discretion.

    That’s why we employ them and don’t just let civil servants do it all for us.

    If you don’t like the decision by all means lobby, moan and create a fuss and try to vote him out next time ….but that’s democracy for you.

  • Pete Baker

    Update Apparently the Minister today informed the Assembly’s Environment Committee of his intention to re-designate Lisnaragh as an ASSI.

  • McGrath

    Sammy, like others, is finding out that the realities of government involve more that simply maintaining fear within his electorate to keep him in office.

    Maybe the burden of him actually having to think will convince him to step aside to allow a candidate with some capacity to fulfill the role?

  • steve white

    anybody have link to a better (or visual) descrption of this glacial deposits area

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s actually pretty refreshing to hear about a local politician ignoring the advisers and using his own reasoning to come to a decision. The vast majority of our ministers don’t bother and unquestioningly, and happily, regurgitate whatever their advisers tell them.

  • The Raven

    Yeah, but Comrade, this was just Sammy testing the waters to see how far he could push it. His credentials in these issues are well known, and frankly making him Minister was like…well…putting Catriona in charge of education. 😉

    Cynic, playing that line with the remaining environment means lose-lose for everyone. Like I keep saying, when it’s gone, it’s gone. “If you don’t like the decision by all means lobby, moan and create a fuss” is pretty much what happened here.

  • Rory

    Isn’t it high time that Sammy wilson himself was designated as an ‘Area of Special Scientific Interest’? I am sure that a detailed study of the thought processes of this unique human being would not prove to be less than intriguing.

  • The Raven


    But it wouldn’t be nice to go and look at.

  • John Woods

    On the issue of “advisers advise and ministers decide” the legislation applying to ASSIs requires judgement to be applied based on scientific evidence. There is no ministerial discretion allowed under this particular law.