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Waste Repatriation

environment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 5th October 2009.

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Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP 3:00 pm, 5th October 2009

2. asked the Minister of the Environment when the repatriation of waste to the Republic of Ireland is due to commence.  (AQO 151/10)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The first meeting in the process to let a contract under compulsory EU procurement rules took place in Dublin on 8 September 2009. Dublin City Council has the lead responsibility for procurement under the framework agreement. The next meeting will take place on 7 October. The procure­ment process will take at least three to four months, and work will commence as soon as possible after a contractor has been selected.

Photo of Stephen Moutray Stephen Moutray DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer thus far. Why has it taken so long to reach this point, and what has the Environment Agency done to stop the illegal activity that is involved?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

During direct rule, the response was too slow, and the issue was ignored for many years. As an MLA with a particular interest in the matter, I wrote to the then Minister with responsibility for the environment, Angela Smith, and received an unsatisfactory response. Eventually, I had to take the case to the European Commission, which demanded that the Republic of Ireland Government respond to it. As a result of the actions of the European Commission, the Republic of Ireland authorities have to take back the waste and deal with it under due process. I will seek to move the matter forward as quickly as possible. I trust that the sites can be restored to the way that they should have been; they should not have been allowed to have been damaged in the way that they have been.

Photo of Tommy Gallagher Tommy Gallagher Social Democratic and Labour Party

Is the Minister aware that, on 29 June 2009, his predecessor as Minister of the Environment told me in a written answer that the tender process would take between three and four months? Given that the current Minister is using the same form of words that was used at the end of June, will a specific date for the commencement of work be issued after the contract is put in place?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I trust that a date will be given. When one is working with another body, one can work only at its speed. Ultimately, we need an agreement with Dublin City Council on the issue. Meetings have taken place, and, as I said, another meeting will take place later this week. If full agreement is reached at that meeting, the procurement process will take three to four months from then. In the event of procrastination, the entire process will take longer. I implore everyone to get the business done this week and to resolve the situation in a way that is satisfactory to all.

Photo of Tom Elliott Tom Elliott UUP

I thank the Minister for those answers. Does he have up-to-date figures on the estimated cost of repatriating the waste? Have any criminal prosecutions been made as a result of the matter?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

There is a site at Slattinagh and one at Trillick. The cost to the Department of the remediation work is around £600,000. That is 20% of the overall cost of the remediation and excavation work. Dublin City Council and the Republic of Ireland authorities will be responsible for the entire cost of dealing with that waste and for 80% of the cost of excavation and remediation. The cost is a serious issue.

Since January 2009, the Environment Agency has overseen 27 successful prosecutions, which have included one suspended prison sentence and almost £120,000 in fines against illegal waste offenders. Trained and accredited financial investigators make use of greater powers that are available to them through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and have obtained confiscation orders that total more than £1 million.