Could Brexit lead to environmental harm?


Earlier this year the EU’s Brexit Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier warned of the risk


Michael Barnier, EU Brexit negotiator

of fiscal, social and environmental “dumping” if there is a divergence of standards between the UK and member states. Last week a crossborder conference in Dundalk on the topic of Brexit and the environment was attended a range of delegates including MEPs, NGOs and leading legal experts. As the ‘UK Great Repeal Bill’ looms there was a call at the conference for the existing cross-border cooperation on environmental protection across the island of Ireland not to be “diluted” by Brexit.

 Niall Sargent of the Ireland’s Environmental Pillar ‘Green News’ website compiled a report on the conference, the main points of which are included here. The article points out that the context is that there are currently over 650 pieces of EU legislation in force to protect the environment, habitats, air quality, waste, food safety and a myriad of other areas. They are the principal drivers for the vast majority of environmental protection measures in place in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.



Mairéad McGuiness MEP

Opening the conference, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Irish MEP Mairéad McGuinness emphasised that environmental standards “must not be diluted” by the UK’s exit from Europe. “Brexit poses many challenges but the threat to environmental progress, which the EU has championed, is one of the most significant,” she said and then added, “For Ireland, it is important to have the same high standards north and south of the border and a divergence of standards would be bad for citizens and for business.”



Environmental Pillar Co-ordinator, Michael Ewing said that it was of vital to avoid a hard ‘environmental border’ which would undermine decades of progress in addressing a range of environmental issues. He called for the island of Ireland to be recognised as a “single bio-geographic unit” and for the cross-border dimension of many environmental issues such as water quality, habitat and species loss to be addressed in the context of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Northern Irish Environmental Link Chair, Patrick Casement, outlined examples of how both environmental networks in Ireland are currently working on a cross-border basis to protect and enhance the environment, such as the All-Island Pollinator Plan. “The environment knows no border on our small island, and neither do the hundreds of terrestrial and marine species currently at risk of extinction on the island of Ireland.  Any dilution of protection will place these species in further trouble,” he said.” He continued by highlighting the importance of cross-border co-operation to the economy: “All-Island Cooperation on Invasive Alien Species has been, and will be crucial.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan also pointed to the potential serious consequences for food


Lynn Boylan MEP

regulation, outlining how Brexit may be “devastating” for Irish farmers “who pride themselves on the quality of the food they produce”. “It is on the island of Ireland’s interests that any deal struck with Britain and the EU protects our food and environmental standards.”

 A more detailed report on the Dundalk conference is available at As the Brexit negotiations will take many months to conclude it will be some time before we will see what impact there will be on environmental standards in the UK and the consequence for Ireland’s environment.

A Letter to Leo on our draft ‘Climate Plan’

A new climate alliance has written to our new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, calling on him to delay implementing the Government’s climate action plan until it includes concrete steps to rapidly cut Ireland’s emissions. The alliance is made up of the Environmental Pillar, Dochas, The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and Stop Climate Chaos.

An extract from the letter says:

the Government is set to consider the first National Mitigation Plan on climate change in ten years, launch a national dialogue on climate change, and give consideration to coordination of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Citizens’ Assembly will also take up the issue of what the state needs to do to make Ireland a leader on climate change in the coming months. This combination of events provides a timely opportunity for a step-change in climate action to secure sustainable jobs, social justice and a healthy future. But grasping that opportunity will require strong and consistent political leadership to promote and facilitate a societal transformation like nothing we have seen before.

It is within this context that we very much welcome the explicit reference in your recent policy plan to furthering Ireland’s climate policy agenda. Indeed, the pathway forward will require consistent political and departmental leadership, robust policy development and implementation, and critical, energetic and constructive engagement with stakeholders and the public. We believe that the necessary open and democratic debate about climate action in Ireland must be led from the top with a clear and unswerving commitment to fulfilling our international obligations, in order to protect Ireland from the catastrophic implications of a failure to deliver on the temperature limits set out in the Paris Agreement.

A copy of the full letter is available at

Events on in July can be found here

Going green this festival season!


Collette McEntee

Festival season is here and as Collette McEntee packs her backpack and tent, she considers how festival goers and festival organisers can ensure an enjoyable experience, while at the same time not harming our planet.



Searching ‘Green Festivals in Ireland’ I come upon and green come up. Between them these initiatives linked up festivals such as Taste of Monaghan, Fleadh Cheoil na h-Eireann in Cavan, The Rose of Tralee. The nature of these festivals differ greatly to the 4 day field event I have in mind.

The – an initiative of local authorities (LAPN) – seems from their website to have been wound up two years ago. Could this be an indication of a lack of ongoing support to ensure that festivals are not adversely impacting on the environment? Having said that it’s good to see that Programme is the hospitality, travel & tourism resource for sustainable and responsible tourism in Ireland.

Looking beyond Ireland I see that acts as an international umbrella to inform and guide organisers with their promotion and practice of ‘leave-no-trace’. is described as ‘a not-for-profit company committed to helping music and arts events and festivals around the world adopt environmentally efficient practices.’


EPFor me; ‘green’ festivals conjure up images (and the scent) of saw dust/compost loos at festivals. At Electric Picnic (EP), my mother collected empty plastic pint containers for a spin of the reward wheel. And for some years at EP, you could be rewarded with a free t-shirt when you collected and disposed properly of a bag of used drink cans. A nice initiative but shouldn’t we be cleaning up after ourselves anyway without the pat on the back?

Plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they photodegrade — they break down under exposure to the sun’s rays.’ – Upworthy, Sara Critchfield

Walking from your tent to the arena, you’ll meet many plastic pint containers, cutlery, Styrofoam holders, cans, phones, clothing, cans, bottles – the list is endless. Harking back to a recent Transition Monaghan article about Responsible Travel, we should employ similar practices as we would in our own homes. Even more so because we’re in a field, immersed in the habitats of thousands of creatures!

You can be/are a conscious camper if you do simple things like carry your own reusable bottles to refill your water/alcohol and a Keep Cup for coffee/tea, avoid the use of disposable cutlery, plates, products and packaging, reuse your towel, shower once a day and the list goes on (although you won’t need to worry about the latter two..!)


Many festivals have sustainable practices in place but how far that filters down to those BnSat the event, on the field, is something we can’t accurately measure. Body & Soul (B&S) in Co Meath has an impressive sustainable strategy online. In it they claim, “When it comes to sustainability, Body&Soul is dedicated to being a leading light in the Irish festival scene” – B&S would indeed be one of the more notable green field festivals in Ireland. For a large festival, B&S certainly waves the green flag loud and proud. I have stayed in their eco ‘Us&You’ campsite where campers are expected to leave with what they bring.

Tents and the additional camping paraphernalia are a major issue at some festivals. People leave so much behind and as B&S Festival director points out. It’s largely due to how cheap camping gear is now with tents costing only €20. Believe me, I know it can be tough on the Monday morning of a long festival weekend, but we need to cooperate with the planet and stop living disposable lifestyles. It’s harmful to earth and our bank balances.


 At the upcoming Carrickmacross Arts Festival from 10th to 13th August, Conan Connolly of Transition Monaghan will be the festival’s Environment/Sustainability Officer. He also plans to have a transition/permaculture event at the festival. A designated Environment / Sustainability officer is a role that probably every festival should have on their Committee.

Whatever festival we plan to go to, our visit drips back into the environment…literally and figuratively! For travel to / from festivals, carpooling or buses are recommended. We need to be mindful of what we bring, our impact while there and what we’re leaving behind – ensuring that we ‘leave no trace’, apart from happy memories!

A link to events on in June and July can be found here

Clogher JPIC Group marks 2nd anniversary of Laudato Si’


A celebration of Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical on humanity and the environment ‘Laudato Si’ took place on Saturday last in St Macartin’s Cathedral Hall, Enniskillen. The timeliness of the event coming shortly after President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord was noted by the chairperson of the event Sr Nellie McLaughlin. Liam Murtagh a member of the organising group Clogher Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation reports on the presentations by guest speakers. Tanya Jones spoke on ‘Heart, Hands and Voice – Living out Laudato Si’ and Anne Marie Russell delivered a presentation on ‘Zero Waste’.

tanya.pngTanya Jones (left) and Anne Marie Russell were guest speakers at the Laudato Si event in Enniskillen organised by Clogher JPIC (Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation) Group

Tanya Jones is a Fermanagh based and a campaigner in the frack-free movement – and she welcomed the recent ban on fracking south of the border. Tanya is also deeply concerned with cross-community issues and is secretary and former chair of the Fermanagh Churches Forum. She is currently a Green Party candidate in the Westminster election.

In her address Tanya said that she believed that Laudato Si’ is one of the most important, in the true sense prophetic, documents of our time, and it is for all of us. Pope Francis she says writes, quite deliberately that he “would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home”


Tanya said that our response to the call to dialogue is often just one of the ‘head’. She says that more than reading is needed. She continues: “Use what you read to inform, to enliven, to deepen and to propel the rest of your response. Put your head at the service of your heart, of your hands and of your voice… Your heart, as the mindful source of all that you do. Your hands, making your daily life part of the solution instead of the problem. And your voice, boldly speaking truth to power.”


In addition Tanya suggests practical action “doing things that change the world a little in themselves but also form part of that great cry for the earth and for the poor. And they nurture our spirits as well. Yours could be anything from planting yellow rattle seeds as part of Ulster Wildlife’s Magnificent Meadows project to building homes for the homeless across the world.”

In conclusion Tanya focused on why people respond by more than just reading. She says, “… if we genuinely listen to our deepest urgings, we will naturally find ourselves doing it”. She recalls the quotation from Laudato Si’. “For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.” That ‘love’ …she said is “why we are here. It is why Laudato Si’ was written, and why we continue to respond to it. Each of us, in our own way, with our heart, our hands and our voice, can keep that love lit right through the darkness.”

Tanya full address is available at


Anne Marie Russell is a nurse living in Co Fermanagh and is a member of the Clogher JPIC Group. In her presentation on zero waste she explained the idea and outlined how she and her family apply the principle in their home. Anne Marie said that she has been passionate about the issue since her first trip abroad as it included a visit to a landfill site.

Anne Marie defined zero waste as a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that products are reused. She went on to quote the words of Pope Francis: “We live in a wasteful culture in which we not only waste stuff, but also people”.


Anne Marie explained that the strategy towards zero waste should focus on the five Rs in the order 1 – 5.

  1. Reject / Refuse what you don’t need.Rs
  2. Reduce what you can.
  3. Reuse what you can
  4. Repair what you can
  5. Recycle or compost what you


Anne Marie outlined ways in which she applies the zero waste philosophy in her home. She says it starts with her shopping and ensuring that she buys only what she really needs. At home she says she focuses on using minimum detergents (which are eco-friendly). Finally she recommends that we “think before we throw”. Can the item be repaired or reused instead of being thrown away as waste?    


A short input was given by Robbie Breadon and Fi Gilmour of the Common Ground Centre which is located near Fivemiletown in East Fermanagh. They described their new Centre as an innovative education, ecotherapy and retreat centre.   See for details. The Clogher JPIC Laudato Si’ event is featured on the Clogher JPIC Group page on Facebook.

June events can be found here

Farming and environment: finding common ground?

Do we really have to pit one against the other?

The link between cattle and climate change is a hot topic in Ireland at the moment, given the size of our agricultural sector. A recent edition of the TV programme ‘Claire Byrne Live’ on RTE 1 had a discussion on the topic. Mícheál Callaghan of Transition Monaghan was in the audience and found the focus was more on confrontation of interest groups rather than co-operation.    

farming and environemtn.pngPictured before the recent Claire Byrne show are members of Young Friends of the Earth: Bobby Fitzgerald, Sinead Mercier, Mícheál Callaghan (Transition Monaghan), Meaghan Carmody, Adrian O’Connell.

The discussion on the recent Claire Byrne programme centred on an article published in the Irish Farmers Journal, referring to a talk delivered by a retired MIT professor, who claims that the link between agricultural methane emissions and climate change is overstated. The claim in the article has since been rebutted by Irish climate scientist John Sweeney.

These TV discussions are often pitted as ‘them versus us’ battles. Based on exchanges between audience members before the show, it seems like environmentalists want to destroy farming, or put the custodians of the land out of their livelihoods. This is sad, and unfortunate. In truth, we are all on the same side. There is only one planet, and no matter what we might wish, there is no way to escape the effects of climate change, other than reducing its causes and adapting to change.


There are many and complex reasons for this, but let’s take a few. Often, environmentalists are associated with a middle class and largely urban background. Research on attitudes to environmentalism in Ireland has shown that it can sometimes be associated with our colonial past. Some of the early environmental laws in Ireland were the wildlife protection directives, agreed at EU level. These require countries to protect certain species and habitats, by creating protected areas. Certain restrictions were placed on what could be done on the land, and certain activities such as hunting were restricted to protect wildlife. Nowadays, there is more emphasis on consultation and collaborative decision making, however at that time, many farmers felt they weren’t properly consulted, and that these restrictions were being imposed by unelected experts and bureaucrats in Brussels. The protection of nature became highly politicised.


Many farmers are not happy with the status quo in farming. There are frustrations at the lack of supports for diversification. For example, despite the huge growth in demand for organics, the organic scheme for new farmers has not been open since 2015, making it difficult for farmers wishing to convert. Farmers in Ireland can be at the centre of reducing waste and generating renewable energy by on farm bio energy schemes and the use of solar panels on the roofs of buildings. Not only would this reduce waste and help Ireland meet its renewable energy targets, it would also generate extra income for farmers. However, we do not currently have the sufficient supports or feed in tariffs here (payment for energy sold to the national grid), compared to other countries. The many farmers working hard to promote more sustainable methods must be given greater voice in debates about farming and the environment.

The struggle of small farmers trying to stay viable and reinvent themselves in the midst of ferocious market pressure, is the same struggle of those fighting the big energy companies, whose power and greed have had a monopoly over energy policy for too long. It is the same struggle of those fighting the rampant inequality that exists in our economic system. Coming together, and imagining a better future, one based on sustainability, equality and well-being, we can be a much more powerful force than a series of single issues causes.

Environmentalists and farmers need to create the space for dialogue, and co-operation, and avoid sound bites or attacking each other. Through listening and respect, we might find that there is much more in common, than debates like the recent one would make out. Why fall victim to division when the fate of our future depends on us coming together?

Click here for events in June

Search for sustainable energy ‘success stories’

The SEAI Sustainable Energy Awards recognise and reward excellence in all aspects of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Awards are open to organisations, businesses or communities who are setting new standards in the reduction of fossil fuel use. Applications for the awards should be submitted online by Friday, 9 June at 5pm.



The Awards encourage entries with innovative approaches and high replication potential from applicants across the island of Ireland. Categories are open to individuals, groups, businesses or organisations, public and private sector from the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

This year’s categories include:
1. Large Business Energy Management
2. Large Business Energy Project
3. Small Business
4. Public Sector
5. Communities
6. Design (including buildings)
7. Research
8. Energy Team/Manager of the Year

Speaking at the launch of the Awards, Majella Kelleher, Head of Energy Demand Management at SEAI, said: ” Energy efficiency makes financial as well as environmental sense, and there is growing interest in and delivery of cleaner sources of energy across both industry and communities as we move Ireland towards a low carbon society. I strongly encourage people and businesses to enter the SEAI Sustainable Energy Awards 2017 to highlight their own success and encourage others to take part.”

Last year, entrants to the Awards demonstrated savings of €100 million through seai awards.pnginnovative sustainable energy projects. Winners included, DaysE who won an award for its ‘Donate-As-You-Save’ fund raising model which uses energy savings as a means of financing energy projects in non-profit organisations. See details of the 2017 Awards Application process at

Events in June can be found here