5 September, 2016




The environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] are calling on the Cork Association for Autism to amend their planned balloon release this Sunday and ‘keep it on a string’. The Association’s annual ‘Blue Balloon and Fun Walk’ is scheduled for Sunday 11th at 11 am at Blackrock, Cork.


FIE said the practice of releasing balloons was ‘an act of littering’ that only continued because people were unaware of the consequences. ‘If the public knew how hazardous balloons are to the environment they would never allow it’, FIE Director Tony Lowes said.


‘It has been well established since a Canadian marine conference in 1989 that the release of gas filled balloons is an environmental hazard. The fragments can become lethal 'marine debris', a hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey.’


‘All of these species have been reported with balloons in their stomachs. All seven species of marine turtles are near extinction and many turtles of two species in particular, the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtle, have been found with balloons in their intestines. The string on balloons can also entangle and trap animals. Not only can entanglement cause death, but added to other plastic fragments, animals can feel full and actually starve to death from not eating. Latex balloons, whilst biodegradable, may still persist in the marine environment for up to four years’, he added.


The group has protested balloon launches before. The balloon release planned for the January 2013 opening of the Irish EU Presidency was re-arranged at the last minute after FIE’s protest to include a ‘Secure Balloon Release’, and not a ‘general balloon release.’


‘All of the balloons for the ceremony’, Tony Lowes explained, ‘had extra-long string attached. The balloons were then released from chest height and let go to the maximum of the string length for the launch itself. After the EU ceremony, children were able to take the balloons home with them as a memento of the day.’


FIE first tried to prevent President Mary McAleese partaking in a memorial balloon release in 2005. At the time Environment Minister Dick Roche refused to prohibit mass balloon releases. In 2009 the prestigious Dublin’s Mount Anville school cancelled a planned balloon release after FIE issued a public call. In July 2012 Birdwatch Ireland and three other wildlife and marine groups issued a call to Ban Balloon Releases.


FIE wrote to President Higgins after his election to the Presidency, asking him to ensure that he did not attend ceremonies which included the release of balloons. His office informed them that he ‘cannot intervene in or make representations about matters which come within the remit of the Government.’


Mr. Lowes stressed that their organisation meant no disrespect for the Charity or the many hard working volunteers who were planning this event. ‘Nor are we seeking to have balloons banned, but rather to join cities in the United States and many English counties in having balloons included in the legal definition of litter and making outdoor releases illegal’.


‘What is key is to ensure that people know of the damage they could unwittingly be causing. Local Authorities could adopt voluntary bans on their own lands as could the Parks and Wildlife Service. This would greatly help to raise awareness – and that’s the key to any change in our behaviour. We don’t believe anyone wants to intentionally cause the needless suffering and death of wildlife or marine animals.’


Comment and verification:

Tony Lowes 027 74771 / 087 217 6316


Editor’s notes

See video of last year’s Balloon Release


at 2.22


UK Marine Conservation Society Pollution Policy and Position Statement, 2014



Birdwatch Ireland (and others) July 2012 call for Ban




Doon dust up- the Battle of the Dunes looms


Locals tell environmental protestors to stay away as Donald visits stunning resort

Protesters planning to descend on Donal Trump’s west of Ireland golf resort when he visits this month have been warned: ‘You are not welcome’

The Green Party say they will stage protest at the visit of the American Presidential hopeful Trump later this month to his Clare resort.

And an Irish environmental group has vowed to take the tycoon through the Irish courts to stop his 2.8 kilometre rock barrier in front of the five-star coastal retreat – even if he is president.

The odds-on Republican Party presidential hopeful caused a stir that week when he tweeted his intention to visit his ‘magnificent resort fronting on the Atlantic Ocean.’

His son Eric and his wife Lara said his father will return to his Irish resort many times as President of the United States.

Local shopkeeper Murt McInerney said yesterday that protestors planning to disrupt Trump’s visit would not be welcome in Doonbeg.



He said: ‘These protesters will not be welcome. They can stay out of this place.

The funny thing about the planning laws is that somebody from Timbuktu can object to a development here.

There are people from all over the country objecting to what goes on here. There was fellow down in Kerry objecting because of some wretched snail when the gold course was developing.

Nobody has ever seen this microscopic snail. It’s a load of nonsense. I think a law should be introduced that nobody outside of a radius of 10 or 20 miles should be allowed to object to a development.’

Trump is one of the divisive presidential candidates in history, but Mr. McInerney said the people living in Doonbeg are not interested in his politics.

‘Generally speaking, American politics is none of our business’, said the Director of Doonbeg Development, which originally dreamed up the golf course.

‘There is no other employer around here that would employ 240 people.’

He said all the locals were treated to Trump-style hospitality when the businessman’s son Eric arrived in May to open the revamped course.

‘Eric and his wife had a wonderful reception for about 300 of us. They spent a huge amount on it’, he said.

It is estimated the Trumps have spent close to €50m, including the purchase price, on the resort.

Murt said the locals are delighted Trump is proposing to spend millions on coastal defences in front of his property, as it prevents many locals from flooding.



Environmentalists had in the past expressed concerns about the survival of the microscopic whorl snail in the dunes behind the resort, but Tony Lowe, from the Friends of the Irish Environment, said their group has objected to Trump’s coastal protection because of the fears of the dunes disappearing.

‘He is certainly not welcome as far as we are concerned. What he is proposing is completely unacceptable.

We will certainly support the protest.’

He said the conservation objectives published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service make Trump’s coastal barrier illegal.



He said: ‘It says that there can be no construction anywhere on the dune system. That is the law.’

And he said they will take their fight right through the Irish Courts, even if Donal Trump is in the Oval Office.

‘If Enda Kenny decided to put a swimming pool in his backyard and the neighbours were annoyed, I don’t think the fact that he is Taoiseach counts… planning goes with the land, not the owner.’

He says the decision on whether to bring Trump to the High court will probably occur in five or six months.

‘The feeling is this will go to the Council, to An Bord Pleanala and then probably end up in the High Court. We’ve been before and we are not reluctant to go again’.


Lynn Kelleher

Sunday World


6 June, 2016


1 June, 2016

ATT: Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Waterford


Commission begins EU Court proceedings over Irish nature designations

Government commitments to end second investigation



As the European Commission begins infringement proceedings against Ireland for failing to complete the designation requirements for its Special Areas of Conservation, it proposes to close another investigation into the protection of the fresh water pearl mussel on the basis of commitments given by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Coillte Teo., the State Forestry Board.



The European Commission has issued a formal ‘Reasoned Opinion’ to Ireland for failing to adopt the necessary conservation measures required for the country’s Special Areas of Conservation. A reasoned Opinion opens infringement proceedings against a member state and is the basis on which the Commission grounds its case before the European Court of Justice.


The proceedings allege that Ireland has failed to complete the national legal protective regime for 400 of the SACs State’s within 6 years of their selection and for failing to set detailed site specific objectives for 300 of the sites. The case was initiated in February 2015 and the Reasoned Opinion issued in April 2016. Ireland has two months to provide a response which will be considered before a decision may be taken to proceed to the European Court of Justice. A ruling against Ireland by the European Court may lead to daily fines if the ecological requirements are not then met.



The information about the case was contained in a 27 May 2016 letter to the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] proposing the closure of an investigation undertaken on the basis of complaints from the organisation from 2012 – 2015 over the protection of the fresh water pearl mussel in Ireland.


The examples documented by the NGO included forestry operations by Coillte Teo on the Glaskeen River in County Donegal, Mayo County Council’s repair of a bridge at Delphi on the Bundoragh River, the proposed N59 Maam Cross to Oughterard Road in Connemara, and felling along the river Lickey in Co. Waterford.


The Commission letter proposes the closure of the investigations on the basis of commitments made by the Irish authorities and the State Forestry Board, Coillte Teo. in a series of formal letters and meetings, teleconferencing and ‘numerous informal correspondence’.



At the outset of the investigation into the operations in Glaskeelan River catchment which was ‘considerably damaged’ by their forestry operations, the Commission’s initial enquiry in 2013 led to Coillte Teo. ordering an immediate halt to 28 ongoing harvesting operations where the fresh water pearl mussel was present.



The investigation concluded that the use of a river as a roadway for heavy machinery ‘considerably damaged the habitat’ through ‘high levels of silt, mud, and run off to water courses’. An internal audit of compliance and the ongoing Commission investigations resulted in changes to Coillte’s procedures for risk assessment, planning training, and auditing which the Commission understands are now being implemented across Ireland. Coillte expressed regret for incident and reported that ‘disciplinary action was taken against several Coillte employees’.


In combination with concerns arising from a report over Coillte felling along the River Lickey in 2014 which found ‘long term and continuing deterioration of habitat quality’, Coillte now has 4 Quality assessors to monitor compliance across its forestry operations and has agreed to engage a hydrologist with an awareness of the habits requirements of the fresh water pearl mussel. Progress in protecting the River Lickey’s population will be monitored on a quarterly basis.



The County Mayo case resulted in a commitment by the Minister for Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht ‘strengthen its own advisory Service’. A major flood event occurred swamping the working area where the local authority had tried to divert the Bundoragh River to repair the Delphi Bridge in spite of warnings from experts. The protective dam collapsed, releasing a considerable amount of sub-standard sand from the sand bags onto the only site in Ireland where the fresh water pearl mussel had favourable conservation status. As result of the incident, the Department has also agreed to develop a better coordination with An Bord Pleanala over projects they are considering. To prevent further erosion by grazing and trampling of sheep, the river banks are being fenced and other river bank protection measures will be put in place.



The proposed section of the N59 from Maam Cross to Oughterard in Connemara if it proceeds will now be subject to strict conditions regarding NPWS approval of Method Statements  a number of Method Statements designed to protect the fresh water pearl mussle ‘and this has resulted in no operations being undertaken so far.



Tony Lowes of FIE said that ‘The changes brought about by our complaints show the potential for pro-active nature conservation in Ireland. However, a recent case where felling took place in a privately owned Castleforbes Estate in County Longford during the bird nesting season revealed that the ecological survey which would have undoubtedly prevent this was dropped as a condition of the license by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht for ‘lack of resources’.


‘The examples we provided to the Commission show a systemic failure to fund and protect nature conservation in our Special Areas of Conservation. Ireland must make good on these legal requirements and provide sufficient resources to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to complete the designation process and protect these areas - or ultimately face far costlier daily fines as well.’




Contact: Tony Lowes 353 27 74771 /353 87 2176316




Letter of 27 May, 2016 to Friends of the Irish Environment




April Infringement Package

Nature: Commission calls for IRELAND to step up nature protection measures

The European Commission requests Ireland to protect habitats and species by introducing an appropriate level of protection for areas designated under the Natura 2000 network. In line with theHabitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), Member States have had six years to designate protected areas under their national law - technically, turning them from "Sites of Community Interest" (SCIs) into "Special Areas of Conservation" (SACs), and to adopt the required measures for improving the status of habitats and speciespresent on these sites. Following the expiration of the six-year period, Ireland has formally designated only a minor proportion of its SCIs as SACs. Ireland has also not yet established the required conservation objectives and conservation measures for all of the remaining sites. This significant gap in the compliance with the key obligations under the Habitats Directive prevents the sound protection and management of the sites and constitutes a major threat to an appropriate functioning and the coherence of the Natura 2000 network as a whole. Therefore, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion, giving Ireland two months to reply. If Ireland fails to act, the Commission may take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU. This case is part of a horizontal enforcement action against several Member States.



The Implementation Committee for the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context has found that Britain has not met its obligations to discuss the impact of a nuclear accident with​the affected public in other countries, including Ireland. The findings are expected to be confirmed at the next plenary session in Minsk in June 2017.


The Irish NGO Friends of the Irish Environment made a complaint to the Implementation Committee over the UK's failure to consult the public in Ireland about the potential trans-boundary implications of the construction and operation of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor.


The first new nuclear station proposed to be constructed in the UK since 1995, Hinkley C is a 3.2GW nuclear power plant composed of two reactors. The power plant will generate 7% of UK's electricity if constructed. The UK position is that “the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary”.


The UN’s Espoo Convention, named for the Finnish town in which it was signed in 1991, requires governments to provide an opportunity to the public in trans-boundary areas likely to be affected by a project to participate in the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment procedures regarding proposed activities. It must ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of potentially affected Parties is ‘equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin’.


FIE’s complaint cited the Irish Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) Report published in May 2013 which acknowledged that in the event of an accident, Irish agriculture could be affected. ‘Food controls and agricultural protective measures would be required if any of these accidents occurred to ensure that food on sale in Ireland was safe to eat. In the case of the most severe accident scenario examined in the study, short-term measures such as sheltering would also be required’, the RPII Report concluded.


German Bundestag member Sylvia Kotting-Uhl also complained to the Implementation Committee. In October 2013, the Implementation Committee asked a number of affected countries for their view on whether "the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C is likely to cause transboundary impact” on their territories.


Norway, the Netherlands and Austria expressed views that a major incident could have an effect in those countries. Ireland's response in November 2013 did not answer the question asked by the Committee. It referred to the RPII report but did not mention the transboundary impacts RPII predicted would be experienced in Ireland in the event of a major release of radioactive material.


The Committee’s recommendations include a request for ‘the United Kingdom to enter into discussions with possibly affected Parties, including Parties that cannot exclude a significant adverse transboundary impact from the activity at Hinkley Point C, in order to agree on whether notification is useful at the current stage for this proposed activity’.


Friends of the Irish Environment calls on the Government


1 - to explain why the Department of the Environment’s response in 2013 didn’t reflect the RPII's views in their response to the Espoo Implementation Committee and

2 - to confirm that they will take up the Committee's recommendations to discuss at this stage the value of notifying the Irish public of the environmental impact of the proposed nuclear power plant.


The issue is to be raised at the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) spring seminar this Friday 10th June in the Council Chamber, Fingal County Hall, Swords.



Contact: David Healy 087 6178852



Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland study



2013 Letter seeking Ireland’s views:



Irish response







23 MAY 2016




The Department of Agriculture has informed FIE that all forestry felling work is being halted at Castleforbes Estate, County Longford until the end of the season protecting birds and wildlife on 1 September, 2016.


After a complaint from Friends of the Irish Environment on 4th April 2016 to the Forest Service, operations were ceased on site but were resumed 10 days later after an official inspection.


FIE then wrote to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural Affairs, and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries, TD, the Minister in charge of the Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS], accusing the Department of using ‘double standards’, highlighting the recent judgement by Judge Seamus Hughes of the Longford District Court who fined two men €250 for destroying vegetation during the closed period imposed to protect birds and other wildlife between March 1 and August 31.


'Farmers are rightly required to go to considerable lengths to ensure they do not cut hedgerows during the closed period, even to incurring additional cost for machinery equipped to deal with wet land, while the Department's own Forest Service issued two felling licenses at the historic Castleforbes Estate in County Longford without any restrictions for nature conservation.’


Documents released to FIE from the NPWS under Access to Information on the Environment show that the original 2015 licence was for thinning only for ‘firewood’ with a condition prohibiting the felling of oaks. However, a Report drafted by the NPWS in response a Parliamentary Question by James Bannon, TD on 2 December 2015 revealed that ‘most beech’, ‘some ash’, and ‘some oaks’ were in fact removed, stating ‘most oaks trees selected were between 60 and 80 years old, with the occasional older tree.’ The Deputy never received the promised response to his Parliamentary Question.



Local NPWS staff only became aware of new licenses when felling began in February of this year and were not consulted during the license application process by the NPWS administration. The NPWS District Conservation Officer wrote that he ‘totally agreed’ with the local staff who felt ‘undermined and embarrassed by the manner in which this application was handled by the NPWS’. He urged the Regional Manager to contact the Forest Service ‘in the hope that we can moderate the damage and deflect the bad publicity that will certainly be directed at us.’


A request from the local NPWS staff for permission to stop the felling was denied by the Regional Manager of NPWS, who stated that ‘NPWS cannot stop such works and that is in the remit of the Forest Service.’


As work continued further into the restricted season, NPWS issued a recommendation under Regulation 4 of the Forestry Consent and Assessment Regulations to the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service requesting that a condition be placed on the licence preventing work during the restricted season. The letter was sent 24 April 2016. It was resent on 8 May as work had not ceased.


In his response to FIE’s letters, the Minister’s Private Secretary wrote on 18 May, 2016 that the Forest Service did not require an assessment before granting the licences because it was determined at the screening stage ‘that the proposed work would not have a significant effect on either the Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive or the Special Protection Area for Birds.


NPWS made a full ecological survey a condition of the licenses but the records show that this was dropped for ‘lack or resources’

While the NPWS made an ecological survey a condition for the original licence, the files show that this was never undertaken due to a ‘lack of resources’.



The documents released from the NPWS show that the Parks and Wildlife Service have confirmed two breeding buzzards, suspected breeding woodpeckers, bats, badgers, pine martens, breeding red squirrels, breeding ravens and many other species of breeding countryside birds (black cap, mistel thrush, etc,)’ with ‘merlin recorded on the bog adjoining the woodland.’


The letter of 18 May from the Minister for Agriculture informs the group that it has been agreed on the ground between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service that felling will be suspended until September.


Tony Lowes of FIE said that while ‘the files show the owners of the Estate wish to reinstate the woodland to as close to primeval woodland as possible, under the guise of ‘Continuous Forest Cover’ and ‘Low Impact Silivicutural System’, these unique woodlands are actually being stripped of specimen redwoods, oaks, and ash of the finest quality and the wildlife decimated through a breakdown in the nature conservation system in Ireland.’


‘Ireland is a repeat offender when it comes to failure to assess impact on SACS. The EU Court of Justice has ruled against Ireland before on very similar issues and the Commission will be very unimpressed to see the law flouted and the environment blatantly damaged in this way.’