“If the [EU] Commission asks what progress has been made… the departments will be exposed”

BBC NI’s Mike McKimm reports on five years of failure to act by the Northern Ireland Departments of the Environment, and Agriculture, following a formal written warning from the EU Commission in 2005 over the plight of [protected species] horse mussel beds in Strangford Lough [added link].  A Freedom of Information request was involved.

The ministers concerned did manage to summon the press for a photo-opportunity on the issue in January 2009.  But that’s about the only activity we’ve seen.  From the BBC report

Again and again departmental members and their advisers admit that their failure to put the plan in place by now could lead to further proceedings by the commission and fines.

At one stage so little progress was made that the Department of Agriculture had spent nothing from its project budget in two years.

When they were warned that the budget may be removed as a result, one worried email the BBC has seen said “The Commission would hang us out to dry if we had to abandon the project for this reason”. So they started spending.

Even as late as June last year, six years after the initial complaint was made, one civil servant warned: “If the Commission asks what progress has been made… the departments will be exposed”.

This seems to have caused panic because immediately the Department of Agriculture agreed that it would bring in a compromise.

It would establish no-fishing zones by the end of 2009, but it did not and still hasn’t.

Nevermind, we can add any resulting EU fines to the ones we’re already paying…

But is it, as I’ve previously asked, dysfunctional?  Or just incompetent?

I’m only asking…

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