The role of statutory and non-statutory bodies charged with environmental responsibility in the Irish Republic
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Primary responsibility for the protection of the environment in Ireland lies with the Department of the Environment, however many other government departments have both general and specific responsibilities in this area. Generally, government departments, on behalf of their ministers, deal with overall policy matters at national level. The administration of much of the environmental legislation is the responsibility of local or regional authorities. In addition, some statutory bodies exercise important environmental and control functions while others provide information, research and support services. A number of non-statutory bodies and voluntary groups such as Greenpeace, Earthwatch and An Taisce play an important role in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental awareness within the public sector. This study examines this network of statutory and non-statutory bodies in relation to their environmental responsibilities and discusses what changes could be made to improve their roles. Alongside the DoE the main statutory bodies involved in environmental protection in the Irish Republic are the EPA, local authorities, An Bord Pleanala and the OPW. These groups are struggling to keep up with legislative change and are not progressive enough to make changes that will make a real difference. Legislation, such as the EPA Act, 1992 that governs such things as IPC licensing, environmental auditing and waste disposal, should improve environmental controls in the private sector. The biggest challenge facing the development of environmental protection in Ireland is in the role of local authorities, this is where the real change can occur. Few local authorities have the resources and expertise to enable them to monitor and guide industry and agriculture, the greatest sources of our environmental problems. The setting up of an environmental services section i within each local authority, with a broader and greater knowledge of environmental science would give the local authorities a better opportunity to relate to other bodies associated with environmental issues. The role the EPA will play in controlling the environmental responsibilities of public authorities in areas such as sewage treatment and waste disposal is uncertain at this stage.
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