Clarke calls for Environment Agency independence

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Sunday, August 12th, 2012
Alliance Newcastle Councillor Patrick Clarke has called for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to be given total independence from the Department of the Environment (DOE). The Agency currently sits within the Department, yet nearly all Environment Agencies in other countries are independent of their Government. Speaking to Newry Times, Clarke stated: “One of Northern Ireland’s greatest assets is our environment and it obviously needs protecting by a strong organisation. The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has shown that it does have some autonomy by imposing large fines on those who have broken environmental laws. But with a lack of independence, it cannot fully investigate actions by Government Departments, either through fear of interference in its budget or direct action to deter investigations.” “While it is a small step forward for us to have a voice to promote and protect our natural environment, there are questions over how much it would be willing to investigate Government Departments with its lack of independence. The inability of our Environment Agency to go after any organisation or person, whether it be a private individual or a Government Department could have negative consequences for our Environment.” He added, “Alliance proposals to improve protections for our environment have previously been blocked by other parties such as the DUP in the Assembly, but I hope that the Environment Minister will support Alliance calls for greater protection for the environment, including an independent environment agency.”
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