OMBUDSMAN ASKED TO EXTEND SEA LICE ENQUIRY
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
22 SEPTEMBER 2013
The Ombudsman has been asked to extend his investigation into the Irish handling of the EU sea lice investigation to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Ombudsman announced last week that their offices were to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Department of Agriculture’s actions in suppressing the formal observations of Inland Fisheries Ireland. The observations were highly critical of the position the Department of Agriculture made to the Commission.
According to a new Request to the Ombudsman for Redress for Maladministration filed by Friends of the Irish Environment, the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to assign the responsibility for responding to include Inland Fisheries Ireland, instead making the Department of Agriculture the sole agency in charge of responding to the investigation.
‘The Department of Agriculture is both the licensing authority and the promoter of the ambitious plan to build 9 mega-salmon farms in Bays along the Irish west coast. IFI, on the other hand, has long established concerns over the loss of wild salmon due to salmon farms infested with sea lice. Assigning the file to the Department of Agriculture was like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop’, FIE Director Tony Lowes said.
The group’s initial complaint to the Department of Foreign Affairs was rebuffed by Eamonn Gilmore’s Private Secretary who told the group last month that it is Government practise to assign these cases to one agency only. He wrote: ‘On cross cutting issues where more than one Department may be concerned, one Department is assigned as lead and it is its responsibility to liase as appropriate with other Departments.’
According to the Taoiseach’s office, who are now the Irish contact point for all EU investigations, this is not true.
In a letter dated 17 September 2013, the Taoiseach’s office EU Division wrote to the group stating ‘when a case might be of interest to more than one Department we would routinely assign the case to file handlers in all such Departments.’
‘This was not done in the case of the sea lice investigation, allowing DAFF to request that the IFI criticism of its position be withdrawn and that IFI instead support the DAFF position. The Commission never got to see the express views of IFI which they had requested.’
‘If the original complaint has been handled according to the established protocol, the IFI criticisms would have been communicated directly to the Commission and the investigation would have had a very different outcome’, Lowes said.
A decision by the Ombudsman on whether to extend the investigation is expected shortly.
Janez Potocnik, the European Environmental Commissioner, has told Nessa Childers, MEP, that ‘all the information and material referred to by FIE will be sought from the Irish Authorities and duly examined’ to see if it ‘justifies reopening the investigation.’
Verification and comment: Tony Lowes – 087 2176316 /027 74771
All documents referred to are on the FIE site and can be found in the ‘Request to Ombudsman to extend investigation’
Previous PR on Ombudsman preliminary investigation into the Department of Agriculture
Quotation from the Letter from DAFF requesting withdrawal of IFI’s formal observations
20 June 2011
‘In the circumstances, transmission of your Department’s observations to the Commission would not only be misleading but would also cause confusion in the public mind regarding sea lice controls and possibly undermine the state’s regulatory system. For these reasons I would ask you to withdraw the formal observations of your Department and to support the observations supplied to the Commission by DAFF.’
Full text the Letter from DAFF requesting withdrawal of IFI’s formal observations :
Overall index of Requests for Redress for Maladministration during the EU Investigation in sea lice and salmon farms in response to complaints from this organisation and Salmon Watch Ireland.
This Press Release