12 August 2005

Call for new heritage body

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Hutton
12 August 2005

The public has lost confidence in the ability of the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) to protect Northern Ireland's natural heritage, it was claimed last night.

Responsibility must be passed to an independent non-government agency without delay, said SDLP environment spokesperson Tommy Gallagher.

"There are many good and dedicated people working in the EHS, but the dead hand of bureaucracy constrains all their efforts," he said.

"Conflicts of interest may arise if some other government or public agency is a polluter.

"Strong, but necessary measures, may be diluted through political pressure from industrial or agricultural lobbies.

"Most of all, they are unable to act with the urgency and thoroughness that the public interest requires."

The EHS yesterday revealed it had invoked three-year-old legislation for the first time this week to charge a polluter with destroying Lough Beg, near Toomebridge.

"The problem is compounded by the nature of direct rule by part-time commuter ministers," said Mr Gallagher.

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