The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss has kicked off its additional meeting in Malahide, Co. Dublin today (Saturday, January 21), with roundtable discussions on a number of key issues including agriculture, peatlands and organic farming on the agenda.

The assembly plans to discuss in the region of 100 recommendations on a range of areas to improve environmental protection and address biodiversity loss.

Last year the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss voted in favour of holding a constitutional referendum on biodiversity.

The group of 99 randomly selected members of the public, which is chaired by Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, voted on and agreed over 100 individual recommendations last November.

Members also agreed at that meeting to seek an extension of time from the Houses of Oireachtas to debate and vote on recommendations including agriculture; freshwaters; marine and coastal environments; peatlands; forestry/woodlands/hedgerows; protected sites and species; invasive species; and urban and built environments.

Citizens’ Assembly Malahide meeting

Today’s meeting of the assembly at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin will see members debate and agree the final wording of approximately 100 recommendations.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, which has been deliberating since May, will discuss around 60 sector-specific recommendations ahead of a final online vote, many of these recommendations directly reference agriculture and farming practices in Ireland.

One discussion today revolved around the issue of nitrates, specifically in relation to the application of nitrates and nitrates derogation.

Under the nitrates regulations farmers can farm at a stocking rate of up to 170kg organic manure nitrogen per hectare. 

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the nitrates derogation allows farmers farm to a higher stocking rate of 250kg organic manure nitrogen per hectare “subject to stricter environmental conditions”.

The derogation runs to the end of 2025 with a review of water quality data due to take place in 2023.

One issue that the Citizens’ Assembly discussed today was whether it is fully familiar with the technical data and whether the group knew enough about nitrates regulations in order to vote on recommendations on this matter.

Following today’s meeting in Malahide the members will vote on the recommendations online before a final report is prepared and presented to the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.