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Independent Environmental Protection Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green 2:30 pm, 25th October 2016

T4. Ms Bailey asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs whether, given the seemingly systemic failings in environmental protections in Northern Ireland, she has had any discussions with the Minister for Infrastructure on the obvious need for an independent environmental protection agency. (AQT 399/16-21)

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for her question. She will be aware from my previous responses to such questions that it is not my intention to bring forward an independent environment agency. However, I want to see the appointment — or the reappointment, now — of independent members to the NIEA board. They were previously taken off that board by a former Environment Minister, and I want to see that decision reversed, because I value the expertise and insight that independent external panel members would bring to the board. I am responsible for protecting our environment, and I take that responsibility very seriously. It is part of my remit, and I have no intention of abdicating that responsibility.

Photo of Clare Bailey Clare Bailey Green

In that case, will the Minister give a solid confirmation that all investigations of the Annsborough event must include an examination of past incidences and equipment failures, including whether secondary pollution prevention measures by NI Water were, or should have been, in place?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for her question. I will give that commitment, and I have sought a meeting with the chief executive of Northern Ireland Water in order to discuss not only the Annsborough incident but others. As I said, I take this very seriously, and I will continue to have dialogue with anyone who I feel could benefit from a discussion with me or the Department.