Alliance MLAs meet with DAERA to discuss environmental protection, budgetary pressures and other issues

Alliance MLAs have met with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Permanent Secretary to discuss issues including environmental protection and budgetary pressures.

Environment John Blair Kate Nicholl

The delegation, including party Environmental spokesperson John Blair MLA and Chair of the Assembly’s All-Party Group on Climate Action, Kate Nicholl MLA, met Katrina Godfrey and the Department’s senior management team to discuss how the lack of a DAERA Minister is impacting the Department and its work.

Mr Blair said it was important to discuss a number of pressing issues facing the Department.

“Like every Department, many impending pressures are facing DAERA, including climate and environmental protection, and budgetary pressures, all without Ministerial direction,” he said.

“This puts the civil servants dealing with these issues under immense pressure and in a potentially precarious position, given the enormity of the matters. It also impacts the various sectors, who are dependent on the actions and plans made by Government to assist them in their work.

“DAERA, like other Departments, is working under a Budget set by the Secretary of State and therefore not bespoke for local needs. Today was a stark reminder of the need for the DUP to end its boycott, reform the institutions to prevent a repeat of the current situation, and allow local Ministers to once again take strategic decisions.”

South Belfast MLA Ms Nicholl said it was vital to raise the issue of climate action, given recent events.

“Last year was a watershed moment for climate action in Northern Ireland, given the Climate Change Bill finally receiving Royal Assent in June,” she said.

“But still we are yet to see the legislation get off the ground and have an impact, despite legislative deadlines hurtling towards the Department.

“The satire is not lost on me the former DUP Minister, who introduced this legalisation, has left his former Department vulnerable to climate litigation, as result of his party’s ongoing boycott of the Assembly. Today allowed us to see first-hand how officials have had their hands tied and I once again appeal to the DUP to end their deadlock.”