Fine Gael yesterday (20/8/18) launched their latest marketing initiative entitled ‘Green Week’ stating “This week, Fine Gael is going green. We are raising awareness about how you can be greener, what supports are available to you and why we need your help to tackle climate change.”
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) wishes to remind the public of Fine Gael’s atrocious environmental record and feels that a week of social media spin is no substitute for actual environmental policies.
· Since coming to power in 2011 Fine Gael has presided over significant agricultural expansion plans including FoodHarvest 2020 and FoodWise 2025. This has resulted in ballooning greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and habitat loss. It is driving species to extinction including the curlew, golden eagle and the freshwater pearl mussel. Last year the EPA highlighted a precipitous decline in the number of ‘pristine’ water sites – from over 500 in the 1980s to just 21 today.
· Investment in the National Parks and Wildlife Service was slashed during the recession and remains poorly organised and underfunded. Its current funding is on a par (€17 million) with the levels of taxpayer funding given to the Greyhound Racing Board. In contrast, An Bord Bia, which is behind the ‘Origin Green’ marketing initiative received €40.7 million in 2017.
· The Heritage Bill, passed into law only last month, allows for hedge-cutting and upland burning at a time when already struggling wildlife is at its most vulnerable. This went against all scientific and public opinion.
· Despite a legal commitment to create a network of Marine Protected Areas by 2020 no progress has been made to-date. The angel shark is likely to have disappeared from Irish waters during this government’s tenure as no action has been taken to save this critically endangered species.
· Despite a legal commitment to end all overfishing by 2020 the number of overfished populations increased in 2017 to 23%. Only 39% of scientifically assessed fish populations are considered to be fished within sustainable limits. Meanwhile supertrawlers hoover marine life from the sea unsupervised.
· Forestry policy remains fixated on monocultures of non-native conifers which devour landscapes, pollute water and eradicate habitats – even in areas which are of high landscape value or are protected for nature. Even the modest targets for native woodland creation are not being met.
· In 2013 a report to the European Commission indicated that a miserable 9% of our most important habitats are reaching ‘favourable’ status. An update to this report is due to be published shortly and there is no indication that this figure is likely to change substantially. The area of midlands raised bog remaining is now less than 1% of its original extent.
· Whole groups of species are threatened with extinction including 30% of bees and over half of our sharks and rays.
IWT Campaign Officer, Pádraic Fogarty, says: “Fine Gael are the party of ecological ruin and no amount of gloss can disguise the damage they have wrought on nature during their time in office. Since coming to office it has actively pursued policies which undermine the integrity of our natural environment – reducing budgets for conservation organisations, introducing laws to weaken nature protection, and knowingly following policies which are at odds with legal environmental safeguards. It is disgraceful that they think they can use their PR machine to weasel their way out of this shameful record.” END