The next taoiseach Charles Haughey quickly established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990. However, the most vehement opposition to the new agency came from an unlikely quarter: the most senior civil servant of his department.
Haughey, as well as Pdraig Flinn, the minister for the environment, supported the new agency. The Mayo politician insists that it have broad-ranging powers of enforcement, prosecution, and both.
The Department of Finance strongly opposed its proposed staffing of 133, and its annual budget of 7 millions. This was at a time when government was cutting the number of public employees.
Flynns plan was resisted fiercely by Dermot Naylor, a long-serving secretary général of the Department of An Taoiseach.
Nally, a civil servant, wrote a strongly worded note to Haughey days before the government decision. He called the EPA Bill unacceptable. Nally also said that it would add to the bureaucracy.
These files are part of confidential government records which have been transferred to National Archive. They will now be open for public inspection.
Nally argued in a memo to Haughey that the EPA would act disincentively to encourage industry to locate in Ireland in October 1990.
It is a worthy goal to protect the environment. However, if it becomes obsessive, then development will cease. We can also forget about more jobs since the firms and services that provide these jobs will not expand or set up for environmental reasons.
He said that developers had to go through a long and tedious process to obtain title to the land, get planning permission, follow building regulations and deal with tribunals for equality, unfair dismissal, safety, and health.
Nally added: There is evidence that regulation, not grants or other incentives, is what attracts investors to a country. If there is too little regulation, investment will move elsewhere. I think we are in danger of crossing the border. . .
The planning code, however obstructive it can be, is much more balanced than the approach in this Bill. . . It can promote development while also preserving the environment. The important thing is that development should be the priority and not the environment, no matter how important it may be.
The new agency will shift this emphasis and is expected to cost 7 millions per year. . . It is still a huge addition to the bureaucracy.
He also stated that there were some objectionable aspects to the Bill, such as the obligation for a local authority comply with an EPA direction. Mr Nally stated that it was unprecedented for a non-elected body to have the power of direction over an elected one.
He stated that the EPA’s ability to request funds from local authorities for environmental purposes was truly extraordinary.
We seem to be trying here to create what Eastern Europe is trying to escape from, he wrote. He was referring to the emerging democratic states formed after the fall USSR.
Flynn and Harney
Evidence suggests that Haughey may have taken some of Nally’s objections with him. He acknowledged that there were too few documents and licences needed for industry to be set up. A memo from the cabinet decision to publish Bill records him saying the EPA would cover water, air and waste pollution and commenting that an impartial body was necessary for granting licences and monitoring. The agency was also granted certain enforcement powers.
Flynn, a minister of State in Mary Harney’s Department, had pressed for an EPA. In late 1989, an internal memo to government stated the following: The environment in Ireland is under increasing pressure from developments. This has resulted in a growing demand from the public for strict enforcement of environmental protection standards that are based on the best technology.
The Department of Finance was dissatisfied with the proposal to add 133 staff members to its workforce and its budget. These proposals were rejected by the minister of finance. [Albert Reynolds]. Budgetary realities make it clear that there is no room for the Government to relax its determination to keep public spending under tight control.
Reynolds also objected that the director general for the EPA be paid the salary equivalent to a High Court judge.
Haughey wanted the agency to be established quickly, even though the Department of Finance objected.
A note from a cabinet meeting in February 1990 records the Taoiseach raising the question of expediting. [EPA]Legislation . . He wishes that this be followed up