DUP not minded to stop the greening of Lough Neagh…

We are now post-election and a fair assessment will be that the greening of the west is essentially complete, with the final unionist seat west of the Bann sure to be the one to watch in elections to come.

However, if reports in local papers are to be believed, the DUP is considerably more sanguine regarding the spread of the colour green elsewhere on our maps, with the ongoing greening of Lough Neagh due to the proliferation of blue-green algae being back in the news. If you cast your mind back, the horrific state of Lough Neagh was one of the brickbats lobbed against the DUP (alongside the breakdown in our public services) to pressure them to resume power-sharing. The DUP did eventually allow the Executive to be restored back in February, and hopes were high that an action plan to save Lough Neagh would be produced.

And one has been but it is not as straightforward as we might have hoped. According to the Newsletter in this report

“A plan has been drawn up by the Environment Minister Andrew Muir to deal with pollution of the lough and improve its water quality – but a cancelled executive meeting yesterday has further delayed the proposals, and it is not certain it will even make the executive for consideration if, as expected, it meets again on Monday.” 

And the hold up? The Newsletter continues.

“Two key proposals from Mr Muir are understood to have been opposed by the DUP.

One is a new regulation to ban excess phosphorous (fertiliser) being put on the land if the soil already has enough under the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme. The minister wanted a ban, which the DUP opposed – it is understood a reduction will instead be brought forward as a compromise.

The second proposal understood to have been opposed by the DUP is a consultation on the sentencing framework around fines and penalties for environmental crimes such as waste dumping and polluting rivers.”

It’s the same old story. The price of fixing an ecological issue involves short-term pain for certain sectors, in this case the agricultural sector whose interests the DUP are keen on championing (just don’t mention their support for Brexit), and the DUP is clearly calculating it is more expedient to protect that sector and its current bad practices (which is one of the main causes of damage to the Lough in the first place) rather than having farmers take the hit and damaging DUP popularity further by allowing the original plan to go ahead.

Whilst we can surely all agree protecting a viable agricultural sector is a worthy goal, perhaps doing so at the expense of the natural world that agricultural sector is ultimately predicated on is not the best long-term strategy?


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