“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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  • edgeoftheunion

    Water, Horse Mussels, Grazing land.

    Is it possible that the very nature is having its revenge?

  • Pete Baker

    Sorry, edge

    Do you want to run that past us again?

    Perhaps with some added, as opposed to absent, logical argument?

  • Im having second thoughts about Ms Gildernew. There is ability and then there is a mind boggling lack of…

  • The Raven

    I’m glad you took time to do this piece, Pete. While I realise there are many aspects to this story – FOI, existing fines, and so on – I’d like to very briefly concentrate on the environmental aspect.

    As of April this year, in Northern Ireland, “the priority species list has increased significantly from 271 in 2004 to 481 in 2010”. Much of this has been the addition of new species and updated information becoming available. I think the hedgehog’s even on there too.

    I understand that the initial annoyance which triggered this off came from the Ulster Wildlife Trust. I think if you did the rounds of virtually every environmental charity and action group in this region, they’d all give a very negative report on the efforts of the administration to get just about anything done.

    It’s only a horse mussel, some say. This piece should explain its importance: http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/ModiolusRestorationResearchGroup/Thehorsemussel/

  • aquifer

    It is almost cruel, prosecuting an organisation whose instinct is inertia for a failure to act. The risk averse graduands who got their civil service exams expected to be told what to do, not to be told they had failed to do stuff and will face expensive consequences. The old hands who have been there forever never expected to be caught when they were napping. The paternalist anglican rentiers will have to perform for us or get a real job.

    Who knew filter feeding bivalves could be such fun.

  • edgeoftheunion


    It was a stray insight.

  • “But is it, as I’ve previously asked, dysfunctional? Or just incompetent?” …. Pete Baker,vFri 20 August 2010, 10:34pm

    Apparently, by all accounts, they bag the brace, Pete, … dysfunctional and incompetent. And all at everyone else’s expense.

  • Cynic

    Look … we need to analyse the important competing interests

    1 what religion are the farmers who farm adjacent land where action may need to be taken

    2 what foot do the fishermen dig with

    Only when we understand that will be understand the relative lobbying positions and why nothing is happening.

  • And as for “Nevermind, we can add any resulting EU fines to the ones we’re already paying…” perhaps the idiots in charge should be touting for a slap on the wrists and a promise to be be good little boys and girls in the future ……. http://cryptogon.com/?p=17129

    I was going to say that you couldn’t make it up, but that is exactly what is done every day by the fools you have elected to office and who feed you with their enslaving nonsense whilst lining their pockets with fast flash cash, so easily quantitatively eased into the System for that very purpose. But things have changed somewhat and now they are running scared of the mob, which is becoming more intelligent and aware of the scams being perpetrated against them in order to subjugate them.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks Raven,

    I’ve added that link to the original post.

  • jon the raver

    This and the NIW scandal need to be developed further – are those civil servants at the very top of the administration – having a laugh !

  • And the complaint was 6 years old? I wonder what the state of other European funds and laws are in NI.

    At least this is reported and taken seriously. Earlier in August Newsnight ran a piece on the failures of the UK government and English local councils to spend money properly (or properly account for it), and the programme focused on the issue of whether or not the European flag should be flown more in England, rather than how money was being spent by local councils (which you would think should be the natural role of the 4th estate…).

    It might not be an “NI only” problem.