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Order of Business

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Senator James Heffernan

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I concur with Senator John Gilroy's comments. The same point was eloquently made on radio by Councillor Dermot Lacey yesterday. People have operated a populist position on property charges which has perhaps resulted in services not being delivered.
I wish to discuss the issue of the Aughinish Alumina plant in Askeaton in west Limerick. No bond against the company has been secured by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. The bauxite waste pools contain corrosive elements and irritants. Should an accident occur, the potential consequence would put Haulbowline in the ha'penny place. The director general of the EPA, Ms Laura Burke, attended the environmental committee a couple of weeks ago. The only conclusion that I can reach is that the EPA is still operating light-touch regulation. It needs to revert to being the watchdog against big industry. It should protect the environment, as its name suggests, but it should also be responsible for protecting communities and human and animal health. At the same meeting of the environment committee, Ms Burke stated she had no objection to the establishment of an environmental ombudsman, as was recommended to the previous Government's environment Minister. That proposal has not progressed one bit. If the EPA does not object to the idea of an ombudsman who would investigate people's complaints against the agency, I do not know why the current Minister has not established one. He needs to attend the House for a debate on the EPA and the establishment of an environmental ombudsman.