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Conference advocates all-island approach on environment protection

A debate on an all-island environment protection agency – which would target fuel laundering in south Armagh and other areas – is to be opened, it was confirmed today (Wednesday).

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has called for greater north-south co-operation to protect and promote the environment.

Speaking at the Environment Ireland Conference in Croke Park, Minister Durkan said: “We have made tremendous strides in recent years to protect and enhance our wonderful environment.

“In the North, my Department has been working towards a sustainable economy and environment. Through Prosperity Agreements we have redirected resources from red tape to actions that support businesses in improving their environmental performance.

“Minster Kelly and I have been collaborating on a range of issues. We have been jointly tackling the scourge of waste crime – by cleaning up illegal land fill sites in border regions and strong enforcement action.”

The Minister said this was all very positive, but it needed to be stepped up a gear on a north-south and east-west basis.

He told the conference they had to “tackle the infiltration of the waste industry by organised crime and to deal with the scourge of fuel laundering”.

Mr Durkan continued: “The border region – and in particular the Newry and Mourne and south Armagh region – is plagued with the dumping of fuel laundered waste.

“I therefore support the call for more determined action to eliminate the activities of organised crime gangs, including the establishment of a permanent, full time multidisciplinary task force.

“The National Crime Agency can play a key role in this.”

Minister Durkan also highlighted the need for greater co-operation on environmental protection and promotion through the establishment of an all island independent environment agency.

He added: “At a time of restructuring of government departments in the north, I believe that the time is now right to put in place environmental governance arrangements that are fit for purpose and align well with arrangements across the island and other jurisdictions.

“In my view an independent all-island environment protection agency is the best way forward and I now intend to open up a debate about this.”

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