Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway Michael Fitzmaurice has vehemently criticised President Michael D Higgins for recent remarks in which he called for more to be done for Irish citizens facing flash flooding. While expressing his solidarity with those affected, Deputy Fitzmaurice didn’t mince words in calling out what he perceives as “bare-faced hypocrisy” on the part of the President.
Deputy Fitzmaurice says that President Higgins, during his tenure as a government minister, had signed the Habitats Directive into Irish law on the 26th of February, 1997.
According to Fitzmaurice, this statutory instrument has been detrimental to the people of Ireland: “Of course everything should be done for those affected, as is the case when all acts of God and natural disasters impact on people, but the bare-faced hypocrisy is sickening: Michael D is the very man who, when he was a government minister, signed the Habitats Directive into Irish law, a directive that makes it harder to help people impacted by flooding.
“This is the statutory instrument that has been directly responsible for the delaying and abandoning of hundreds of infrastructure projects across the country.
“All over the country, local authorities and people cannot even do the ‘real world’ emergency works needed to prevent or alleviate flooding which puts their lands, homes, and businesses at risk, because Europe’s definition of an emergency, as defined in ECJ judgements, says an emergency must be constant and ongoing.
“In Ireland, the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 94/1997) was signed to transpose the Habitats Directive, which is part of the Natura 2000 framework.
“The impact of this statute is such that before you can get planning permission in this country, you need to satisfy 38 different consents related to the Habitats Directive. And even if a person complies with the environmental impact assessments, hydrology assessments, ecological screenings, etc., they could still find themselves in court with a challenge under this directive.
“The then-Minister Higgins was either not cognisant of the broader environmental and land use issues which his policies would cause, or he didn’t care. Neither are acceptable in my book.
“To be honest, Michael D should apologise to the people of Ireland for laying the foundation for Europe to be able today to restrict our use and enjoyment of huge swathes of our lands. And he should also apologise to the emergency service workers who are on the ground in flood-stricken areas, actually helping the people”.