Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss cannot be turned into another “stitch-up of rural Ireland”, independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice has said.

The Citizens’ Assembly could utterly fail in its objectives and be a “worthless” exercise, the deputy warned, as he approaches this new institution with severe caution.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said he is deeply unimpressed with the first meeting of the assembly which took place recently (Saturday, May 14).

He criticised claims that “Ireland was not the land of a hundred thousand welcomes for nature”, and that “rural Ireland has shrugged its shoulders at nature”.

Speaking about the first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly, Deputy Fitzmaurice commented:

“It would do our urban experts a great deal of use, were they to realise we are the conservators and curators of the land. We realise all too clearly that biodiversity is critical to a successful farming future.”

He added that what he considers ideological positioning, leaves himself and rural Ireland suspicious of the good faith of this assembly.

Deputy Fitzmaurice also expressed concerns over the intention of the assembly to undertake a field trip next month and intensive discussion sessions in September.

“Rural Ireland is a complex place and biodiversity is a complex issue. It is less than convincing that the assembly thinks one field trip will suffice,” according to Deputy Fitzmaurice. He added:

“The so-called Citizens’ Assemblies have a bad reputation for coming up with predetermined results. I trust the people attending this to give those of us who know rural Ireland a fair hearing if we are allowed a voice.” 

While no one can deny that biodiversity is critical to the future of rural communities, Deputy Fitzmaurice said, “biodiversity has also been weaponised by state-sponsored groups as the tool of choice to impose a relentless series of curbs on rural Ireland”.

Citizens’ Assembly

The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss comprises 100 members including an independent chairperson and 99 randomly selected members of the public.

Assembly members are to examine how the state can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss and to bring forward proposals in this regard.

The assembly shall conclude its work and submit its report ideally no later than nine months from its date of commencement, and make recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The government will provide, in the Houses of the Oireachtas, a response to each recommendation of the assembly and, if accepting some or all, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for implementing those recommendations.