A public consultation on the review of Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme has been announced by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney.

The public consultation was launched jointly by Minister Coveney and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed last week.

Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme is given effect by European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 31 of 2014).

The regulations contain specific measures to protect surface waters and groundwater from nutrient pollution arising from agricultural sources.

In accordance with the Nitrates Directive, these regulations are due to be reviewed this year.

Minister Coveney said that protecting and maintaining water quality is a national priority and Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme plays an important part in achieving this.

This review of the programme gives us an opportunity to ensure it is realising this objective as effectively as possible.

The review is a key step in the preparation of regulations that will underpin Ireland’s fourth Nitrates Action Programme, which will remain in place until 2021, according to the Department.

“I look forward to hearing from a wide range of stakeholders during this important consultation process.”

Last year, Secretary General at the Department of Agriculture, Aidan O’Driscoll said that as part of this review, Ireland’s 7,000 nitrates derogations are “essentially up for renewal”.

O’Driscoll said that there has been a number of developments that give rise to some degree of concern with regards to Ireland’s derogations.

“The Danes have not had their derogation renewed. The Commission was not satisfied with the progress the Danes made on water quality.

“The Dutch were told that, as part of their renewal, they have to reduce cow numbers.”

The closing date for receipt of responses is April 28, 2017. The consultation paper can be downloaded from both Departments’ websites.

Hard copies can be obtained on request from Water Quality Section, Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Newtown Road, Wexford, or by telephoning: 053 9117487.