Irish Package Meeting Minutes (DG Environment / DAFM)

Re: AIE request 22 1451

AIE for access to information held by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine relating to

For the period from 26 November 2021 to the date of your reply to this AIE request:
1) All communications (all media) with DG Environment by DAFM,
2) All communications (all media) from DG Environment to DAFM.

Main focus:

  • impacts of agricultural dairy expansion, peat extraction, forestry, aquaculture and windfarm developments in Ireland
  • the adequacy and affordability of the means of national redress in the Irish courts

Lack of clarity whether the actions required to protect birds in the wider countryside had been completed.

The Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan (HHTRP) proposed by the Irish authorities in 2012 is still not adopted

The biggest concerns raised was about the state of Ireland’s birds given that some are in a critical condition – in particular breeding waders and farmland birds

Commission remained concerned that forestry levels within Hen Harrier sites remained high and replanting policies still needed to be assessed

Conservation objectives were still missing for sites and that whilst some of the plans adopted are good, declines in bird species have continued

Legislation was adopted to allow for more effective enforcement action against illegal peat digging e.g. powers to confiscate excavators (Note: needs validation, last NPWS action was in 2012, and machinery was not confiscated, and case was dropped)

Level of peat extraction in SACs is still significant and has not reduced in the last 5 years. It appears to the Commission that efforts to further reduce this activity have dwindled and this is concerning. It was also noted that no information has been provided for the 2021 digging season. Furthermore, from the information the Commission had available it appeared that only limited restoration work appears to had started and the delays in action risk further deterioration of the sites concerned.

The Commission asked to be provided with an update on enforcement action taken and progress made on restoration for both the raised bog and blanket bog SAC sites. The Commission also asked Ireland to provide information on action taken to reinforce compliance for the forthcoming cutting season before end March 2022 with an assessment of the effectiveness of this action to be provided before end June 2022

The Commission reiterated its concern that progress on the identification and designation of sites under the Habitats Directive and in particular feeding/forgaging areas for seabirds under the Birds Directive is too slow, in particular in the light of Ireland’s offshore ambitions. These two ambitions appear to be on a collision course

Derrybrien Wind Farm Article 260 Infringement (2000)4384 is still on the list

Lack of enforcement generally being taken in Ireland against breaches of planning law. This is a core concern

Landslide at the site of a windfarm (19 turbine) built on peat bog in Meenbog, Co Donegal in November 2020 (CHAP (2020)03412) – The Commission would like to understand why lessons from Derrybrien still appear not to have been learnt.

Note: The Irish authorities to provide a written update on the action taken to ensure that its assessment and decision making process for windfarms on peat soil is fit for purpose with regard to tackling soil stability and potential landslides. Written
details regarding the situation and follow up given to the 2020 landslide in Meenbog to be provided.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – Infringement (2017) 0368

The Commission stressed that more than 4 years after the expiry of the transposition deadline, Ireland is still missing elements of transposition for Directive 2014/52/EU in this infringement concerning the non transposition of this amending Directive into national law

Agriculture Policy and Impacts

The Commission explained that numerous complaints have been received with regard to the negative environmental impacts of Ireland’s dairy and beef expansion policies. CHAP(2020)2004 and CHAP(2020)2721

Forestry Policy and Impacts

The Commission explained that it had received numerous complaints with regard to forestry practices in Ireland. As was discussed at the last package meeting, file CHAP (2015)00331 had raised concerns that there had been only one environmental impact assessments carried out since the Directive came into force. Further concerns were outlined in an exchange of letters between the Irish authorities and DG Environment (lead by unit D.1 within DG Environment)

There are concerns that forestry activities within designated SACs and SPAs are still being allowed to impact negatively on these sites – in particular with regard to Freshwater Pearl Mussel and Hen Harrier.

The Commission explained that it would also be helpful to understand how climate change assessments are being progressed looking at whether historic afforestation on deeper peat soils can be counted towards climate goals and how this will be addressed in the new forestry and peatland strategies currently being drafted.

Forestry data: concerns were raised again by the eNGOs about the lack of transparency for forestry licences, in particular when a large block of licences is applied for in one go (reference was made to 1800 coillte felling and restocking applications made in a single application in 2021 with each application being subject to a 30 day deadline for comment)

Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive – Infringement (2013) 2056

Water Framework Directive – Conformity – Infringement (2007) 2238

Water Framework Directive – 2nd River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) – EU Pilot (2021)9913

Recovery and Resilience Plan

The Commission requested information on the level of restoration/rehabilitation Ireland is aiming at and how the success of the investment will be measured. The Commission would like to better understand how Ireland is setting and reporting on the milestones for its peat rehabilitation investment.

How these gains will be protected into the future e.g. though legal land designations for nature protection? The Irish authorities implied that it was too early to consider this but that an undertaking had been given in the context of state aid discussions with DG Competition that the land would not be put into economic use post remediation.

Lack of EIA for Peat Extraction – Infringement (2019)4007

Access to Justice – Infringement (2012)4028

Response to issues raised concerning Irish forestry and the environment

Public Consultation on Ireland’s 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan


Need to ensure appropriate resourcing and skills across Government Departments and state bodies


-Need for clear, defined responsibility for stakeholders assigned roles and actions across the Plan
-Need for a legal basis to secure the implementation of the Plan
-Promote useful sharing of information and enable Government departments to effectively communicate with the public around progress with the Plan


-Ensuring that biodiversity-related data is accessible, consolidating disparate data into a centralised repository
-Need for standardisation and coherence across data collection efforts
-Need to support citizen science, recognising the invaluable role that voluntary recording and monitoring schemes play in recording data
-Need to identify and address the root causes of biodiversity loss in Ireland

Local Authorities and Biodiversity

-Ensuring that all local authorities have access to a biodiversity officer and the expertise necessary for biodiversity monitoring and enforcement

Rural Biodiversity and Farming

-Ensuring that biodiversity data collected by farmers is captured and utilised
-Ensuring that farmers are adequately compensated / remunerated for managing their land to support biodiversity
-Revising and enhancing the viability of farm forestry

Biodiversity and Planning

-The role of the planning process in safeguarding biodiversity
-Supporting best practice to ensure positive outcomes for biodiversity


-Need for further focus on habitats and species that lie outside of protected sites

Actions relating to monitoring and evaluation

-By 2023, a progress tracker for the NBAP is established

-By 2023, and in each year thereafter, relevant entities report on their progress against this Plan

Each Objective contains a series of Outcomes that describe the changes that will occur if Actions are achieved:
• Each action has an associated target, which is a time-bound description of what the action aims to achieve.
• The actions are interventions that will contribute to the achievement of the outcomes.

• Each action has a designated owner(s).
• Each action has a measurable indicator(s) that will allow for the monitoring of progress.


The NBF will conduct an independent review of the Biodiversity Financial Needs Assessment (by 2024)

By 2026, OPW has implemented its Biodiversity Action Strategy in full (including Appointment of a Biodiversity Officer)

DHLGH will work with Local Authorities on establishing a Biodiversity Officer Programme with a dedicated Biodiversity Officer in each Local Authority and dedicated guidance on their role by 2026

All Local Authorities will have a Biodiversity Action Plan in place by end of 2026

By 2027, measures for biodiversity implemented under the Common Agricultural Policy are monitored for their impact and efficacy

By 2023, a mechanism for matching private sector resources with appropriate biodiversity projects is established (Business for Biodiversity platform)

DHLGH will publish detailed site specific conservation objectives for all SACs and SPAs

By 2025, DHLGH has reviewed its licensing and consent system to facilitate sustainable activities within Natura 2000 sites

DHLGH will publish and implement Species Action or Threat Response Plans with population targets for threatened and endangered species that are in Unfavourable status or have declining trends

DHLGH with relevant stakeholders will identify areas that will be pledged as protected areas following the criteria laid out under the EU Biodiversity Strategy (by end of 2023)

DAFM and Teagasc will develop and implement realistic and widely applicable results based agrienvironmental climate measures (AECM) as part of Ireland’s CAP SP that include significant habitat maintenance and restoration measures

In line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the use and risk of pesticides is reduced by 50% by 2030

Measures under the National Peatlands Strategy are implemented by 2025 and updated by 2026, and an updated Bord na Mona Biodiversity Action Plan is published by end of 2023

By 2024, Ireland’s National Forest Strategy and Forestry Programme has identified clear actions to enhance biodiversity

OPW will work with relevant authorities to ensure that Flood Risk Management planning and associated SEA, EIA and AA, minimises loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services through policies to promote more catchmentwide and non-structural flood risk management measures (by 2027)

OPW will ensure that all significant drainage (arterial drainage), including both initial drainage and maintenance drainage will be assessed for its implications for biodiversity, particularly for wetlands (by 2027)

The OPW, in coordination with other relevant stakeholders, will continue to enhance its knowledge and capacity with regards to Nature-based Solutions for Catchment Management (NBS-CM) and will assess the potential NBSCM as part of the development of the future flood relief schemes (by 2027)

OPW will review existing flood relief schemes, identifying opportunities for retrofit of biodiversity enhancement measures, and developing biodiversity good practice from the lessons learned into guidance for new schemes (by 2027)

Implementation of all actions of the Nitrates Action Plan by December 2025 – DAFM will ensure that Ireland’s CAP SP will provide circular and localised nutrient management and reduce loss of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and soil to the aquatic environment, taking account of nature-based solutions

Irish Water will implement its Water Services Strategic Plan (2015-2040), in particular its objective to protect and enhance the environment, together with its Biodiversity Action Plan

DHLGH and LAWPRO will ensure that high status water bodies are effectively protected and restored via the Blue Dot Catchments Programme (2022-2027) – High status catchment delineation and prioritisation for protection measures; Output from national a monitoring system; Centralised GIS database or activities database is established and operational

DHLGH will develop an Action Plan to urgently protect 3110 Oligotrophic Lake Habitat that was assessed as having a Bad Conservation Status as part of Article 17 Reporting 2019

DHLGH, Inland Fisheries Ireland, OPW and other relevant bodies will explore the restoration of 300 km or rivers to a free-flowing state in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030

By 2026, Ireland is meeting all requirements for its transitional, coastal, and marine environment under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), thereby achieving and maintaining High or Good Ecological Status and Good Environmental Status, respectively

DAFM, DHLGH and other relevant stakeholders will implement measures to ensure that there are no significant adverse effects from marine fisheries and aquaculture in and adjacent to EU Natura 2000 sites

DHLGH will establish an invasive alien species (IAS) unit to expedite implementation of the legislative and policy framework, including specific resources for enforcement

DHLGH in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, will resource and implement on-the-ground actions to remove stands of invasive species from native woodlands and peatlands within Protected Areas and National Parks

By 2023, there is significant progress to restore and rewet raised bog protected areas, as set out in the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022 and Ireland’s 2021 Climate Action Plan

By 2027, OPW has made all relevant biodiversity datasets publicly available

By 2024 biodiversity monitoring programmes are sufficiently robust to detect changes over time and fulfil our national, regional and global reporting obligations

By 2023 the National Land Cover Map will be published

Habitat biodiversity assessments are conducted on all National Farm Survey (NFS) farms by 2030

By 2027, alignment is achieved between relevant EU LIFE projects that work separately

Water Policy Advisory Committee Meetings – 2019 to 2021

The Water Policy Advisory Committee (WPAC), established pursuant to S.I. 350 of 2014, provides policy advice and assistance to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and on broader water resource issues.

WPAC is also responsible for providing advice on and support for the making of River Basin Management Plans, including the programmes of measures as part of those Plans.

WPAC also invites other organisations to present to it on topics of relevance, and it has decided to publish regular bulletins to provide an overview of issues under consideration.

However, as much of the Committee’s discussions are confidential as part of the wider deliberative process, these bulletins are general in nature.

WPAC Membership
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Chair) (D/HPLG)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Office of Public Works (OPW)
Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI)
Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (D/AFM)
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (D/CHG)
Department of Health (D/H)
County and City Management Association (CCMA)
Health Service Executive (HSE)
Irish Water (IW)
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI)

Note: nothing substantive that’s not available / mentioned via multiple other sources, aside from:

D/HPLG provided information on the new oversight group for the ASSAP.

Abstractions Bill – pre-legislative scrutiny stage on the 20th October 2020

Shannon catchment – fish passage Ardnacrusha / Parteen – Roadmap for the implementation of potential solutions was close to completion, and with the Steering Group by end of 2020

Programme of Measures Gap Analysis mentioned. Unclear if these gap analysis reports have been published by EPA. References main issues of Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and hydromorphology (drainage, sediment and barriers) so worth following up.

Background Note from Water Advisory Unit (part of Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage) on Domestic Septic Tanks

On 29 October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in relation to the treatment of domestic waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. 

The Court ruled that, with the exception of bye-laws in County Cavan, Irish legislation did not transpose Articles 4 and 8 of Directive 75/442/EEC (the Waste Directive) insofar as domestic waste waters from such on-site treatment systems are concerned.

The Court ruled that the existing legislation only partially provided the protections required by the Directive in relation to on-site waste-water treatment systems. Specifically, the Court highlighted the absence of an appropriate system of inspection for such systems.

A response setting out Ireland’s proposed legislative response issued to the Commission in December 2009.  Following the ruling the Department worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and with officials from a number of local authorities on developing proposals to address the ruling and provide for a system of inspection.

The issues raised from the 2009 European Court of Justice ruling have since been addressed by various pieces of legislation. These include the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Regulations (e.g. SI 220 of 2012 and SI 223 of 2012), and the introduction of the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems to support these regulations.  Regulations can be found on the Irish Statute book website at

Current details regarding Domestic waste water treatment systems (septic tanks) can be found on the Rural Water section of the Department’s website at:

In terms of Ireland’s obligations, the EU Water Framework Directive, which was adopted in October 2000, is now the relevant piece of environmental legislation requiring implementation to protect our waters and it lays down very detailed requirements for the management and improvement of water quality.

These include the requirement that member states must put a programme of measures in place to protect and, where necessary, restore to at least good status all bodies of surface water and groundwater within prescribed timeframes.

To implement this requirement, member states are required to prepare “River Basin Management Plans” every 6 years. These plans must, amongst other requirements, set out the environmental improvements that will be delivered during the river basin planning cycle in question and describe the programme of measures that will be implemented to meet the objectives set out in the plan.

Details relating to the Water Framework Directive are available on the Water Advisory Units section on the Department’s website at

Details of the most recent plan can be found at: and details of public consultation on the draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022-2027 can be found at the following link:

All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network (AICBRN)

This major initiative brings together leading research centres across the whole island of Ireland to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergency where a trans-national approach is essential.

Researchers from all of the centres across the network have come together to work with national, regional and local governments, communities and industry to effectively deliver solutions to climate, biodiversity and social challenges caused by global warming.

‘The ambition of the AICBRN is to develop a large-scale research and innovation initiative to improve public good policy and management decisions, underpin business and enterprise strategies and strengthen societal capacity to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies’

We will be investigating:

  • Clean energy solutions and how to economically implement these to achieve a socially just transition away from fossil fuels
  • Prevention of biodiversity loss, reversing degradation in ecosystems and how to make our natural environment more resilient to climate change
  • Protecting and enhancing agriculture in Ireland and looking to achieve negative carbon emissions
  • Improving climate predictions and the level of uncertainty to improve forecasting of adverse weather and flood risk

Ecosystem Accounting

The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) constitutes an integrated and comprehensive statistical framework for organizing data about habitats and landscapes, measuring the ecosystem services, tracking changes in ecosystem assets, and linking this information to economic and other human activity.

The United Nations Statistical Commission adopted the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting at its 52nd session in March 2021. The report of the Commission can be found here.

This adoption follows a comprehensive and inclusive process of detailed testing, consultation and revision. Today, ecosystem accounts have already been used to inform policy development in more than 34 countries.

Article 17 Reports (2019)

The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland 2019 (Article 17 Report, Volume 1)

This is the third report on the assessment of the status of habitats and species that Ireland
is required to protect under the EU Habitats Directive. These assessments serve as a
benchmark for the status of biodiversity in Ireland.

Habitat Assessments (Article 17 Report, Volume 2)

Species Conservation Assessments (Article 17 Report, Volume 3)

OPW Site Specific Appropriate Assessments

Appropriate Assessments are conducted by the OPW themselves, after the works are completed.

Examples from 2019/2020 show they can involved removal of trees, gravel and other in-stream works

As the list of projects is not published in advance, there is no opportunity for community engagement, or an actual environmental assessment.


Image: None

Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – Sluice Valve Replacement on River Shannon, Tervoe, Mungret, Co. Limerick

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

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Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – Removal of a Gravel Berm from the River Feale in Listowel, Kerry

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

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Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – Enhancement Works of Defence Embankments on the Cappagh River, Portumna, Galway

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

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Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – Enhancement Works of an Embankment on Newport River, Ballymakeogh, Tipperary

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

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Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – Embankment Enhancement Works at Douglas, Killorglin, Kerry

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

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Appropriate Assessment Determination Statement – De-Silting Works at Adare Bridge, Blackabbey, Adare, Limerick

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

Image: None

AA Determination Statement – Moy River Deel Tree Management

The purpose of this Appropriate Assessment (AA) Determination Statement is to provide a statement for the public and relevant bodies to ascertain that an AA has been conducted in accordance with relevant regulations. The purpose is to allow interested parties to assess the competent authority determination.Download

Note: AIE submitted on list of projects planned for 2022

Under the AIE regulations, to request details on completed and planned projects by the OPW that fall within the phrase ‘Appropriate Assessment Determination Statements‘ for 2021 and 2022

Response to AIE

LAWPRO AIE Request: Priority Areas for Action (PAAs) 21/10/2021

FOI-0421-2021 ( Submitted to who redirected to ) 1/11/21

“Under the AIE Regulations 2007-2018, please provide any communications which identifies the measures listed as “Quick Wins” by LAWPRO catchment scientists and passed on to ASSAP for action

For context:

LAWPRO catchment scientists work in specific catchment areas called Priority Areas for Action (PAAs)

The list of Proposed Areas for Action can be viewed here

There is a complete lack of transparency regarding the individual measures proposed, implemented, monitored and reported by LAWPRO (and ASSAP)

My understanding is the LAWPRO catchment scientists (there’s approx 37 of them) walk catchments to spot problems and then pass these to ASSAP to engage with the farmers, landowners, etc


I would like to determine where these ‘Quick Wins’ are documented, initially written up by the Catchment Team, how they are passed to the ASSAP Team, and where all this work is eventually documented to determine is a “Quick Win” turned out to be quick and/or a win

For the purposes of this request please consider the Quick Wins in the 2nd Cycle (2018 to 2021), unless the Quick Wins have already been worked on for the 3rd Cycle (2022 to 2027)

Conservation Grazing

Sample conservation grazing projects in Ireland

Kerry Uplands

2011 to 2016

This project seeks to develop evidence-based management recommendations for the uplands, specifically with regard to the impact of cattle grazing on upland habitats. The home range and resource selection of Dexters (a native breed) in the 462 hectare Mount Brandon Nature Reserve in County Kerry is being investigated. It is a collaborative project between the Institute of Technology, Tralee, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and an organic farmer in west Kerry.

Virtual Fencing Trials

Since summer 2020, the Agri-Ecology Unit of National Parks & Wildlife Service and three farmers have been progressing Ireland’s first virtual fencing studies on commercial farms, assisted by Teagasc, IT Sligo and Michael Martyn Agri-Environmental Consultants.

These conservation grazing trials using innovative technologies are being undertaken on three farms participating in the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme (ffn-ebook-complete.pdf (

Burren Programme

Fernhill Meadows

Biodiversity Conservation of Fernhill Meadows with Droimeann Cattle

Lullymore West Bog, Kildare

Donkey grazing to support endangered Marsh Fritillary (Euphydyras aurinia) butterflies on the Irish Peatland Conservation Council’s Lullymore West Bog Nature Reserve in Co. Kildare

Grazing donkeys help boost endangered butterfly populations on Kildare bog

Old Irish Goats Grazing Gunnera Tinctoria

Goats to tackle the invasive plant Gunnera Tinctoria

Howth Goats

Three-year project involving the Old Irish Goat Society and Fingal County Council.

Horses on gorse

Hen Harrier programme