ANN CAHILL: Government tardiness with EU laws will see taxpayer pay

THE Irish Government is being sued by the European Commission because it has failed to introduce laws to ensure the polluter and not the taxpayer pays to clean up damage to the environment.

It is also facing court action for not following rules when awarding valuable state contracts for building the Dundalk by-pass and for animal identification tags.

The polluter pays directive should have been brought into Irish law over a year ago, but despite several warnings, Ireland has failed to meet the deadline.

The directive covers incinerators, landfills, industry and the transportation of dangerous materials and applies to damage to land, water and nature.

The Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said the legislation, known as the Environmental Liability Directive, is one of the most significant new pieces of EU environmental law of the last few years.

It should have been brought into Irish law at the end of April last year but Ireland and eight other EU countries failed to do it.

Mr Dimas said: “More than a year after the deadline, it is high time these member states transposed it, not least to create the necessary legal security for operators carrying out activating falling under the directive.”

Dublin Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa criticised the Government and the Environment Minister John Gormley for not bringing the directive into Irish law.

“As a result the Irish taxpayer is facing a costly EU legal battle that we have no hope of winning. If the Government can’t even put this directive onto the statute books, what hope is there that polluters will actually pay for any damage they cause?” he said.

Three other actions Ireland is facing are in connection with public tenders. The Government is accused of not ensuring that contractors are told in time when they have been overlooked for a contract and so cannot take action they are allowed to take in law.

The Commission is also sending a warning to Ireland over a Department of Agriculture and Food contract for the supply of animal identification tags.

A statement from Mr Gormley said that he inherited the situation when he became Minister for Environment and said he will do everything in his power to bring a resolution to these issues.


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