Ireland’s performance in implementing EU environmental legislation could be better

Date released: Mar 29 2007

Ireland’s performance in implementing EU environmental legislation could be better, according to Dr Mary Kelly, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) speaking today at the Sherkin Island Marine Station 23rd Annual Environmental Conference in Carrigaline, Co Cork.


“Despite the huge investment leading to measurable improvements in the environmental arena in the past decade, underinvestment over many years in areas such as waste management, waste water treatment and drinking water treatment has left us in a catch-up situation which is less than optimal.”


Dr Kelly said:

“This investment in infrastructure needs to continue until such time as all drinking water treatment plants, urban waste water treatment plants and waste management facilities are operating at the standards now demanded by Irish citizens and required by the EU.”



Focussing on the role of the EPA in enforcing environmental legislation, Dr Kelly outlined the work of the Office of Environmental Enforcement, which was established within the EPA in 2003.   The structured approach to enforcement of environmental legislation by the Office of Environmental Enforcement has earned a reputation for professionalism and thoroughness with the Irish public and also with the EU.

The Office of Environmental Enforcement has:

  • tackled the issue of illegal waste activities, particularly across the border with Northern Ireland by coordinated concerted enforcement between local authorities, police and environmental protection agencies North and South; 
  • introduced risk-based approaches to enforcement that target resources at the areas where they are most needed;
  • established an Environmental Enforcement Network of over 1,000 regulators to dramatically improve the enforcement of environmental legislation by
  • concerted actions, training and information gathering;
  • developed a National protocol for dealing with environmental complaints;
  • taken over 50 prosecutions in the last three years resulting in the investment of over €25 million in environmental infrastructure and
  • sanctioned local authorities on poor compliance with their environmental obligations.

Looking to the future Dr Kelly outlined a number of new roles for the EPA in enforcing environmental legislation, including overseeing the provision of drinking water by sanitary authorities and the licensing of local authority waste water discharges and storm water overflows.

Welcoming these new roles, Dr Kelly said:

“These are areas where the EPA has identified the need for regulatory control in order to provide protection for the environment and appropriate sanctions for those that do not comply.”



“EU legislation requires a much more structured and well resourced approach to the enforcement of environmental legislation.  The EPA looks forward to playing its role in ensuring that there is a clean and healthy environment for everyone.”