NI Assembly calls for illegal waste disposal inquiry

Waste Image copyright AFP

The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion calling for a public inquiry into illegal waste disposal.

Sinn Féin's Cathal Boylan said an inquiry was needed to restore public confidence following "shocking revelations" in a recent BBC Spotlight programme about an illegal waste site at Mobuoy, near Londonderry.

"Alarm bells should have been ringing" as far back as 2007, he said.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said illegal dumping was a widespread problem but he doubted the value of a public inquiry.

The minister said an independent investigation had already been carried out into the Mobuoy site and a criminal investigation was under way.

"Up until the airing of Spotlight, Sinn Féin's interest in this issue was minimal, or maybe it had more of an interest than it let on," he said.

Mr Durkan outlined a number of actions he was taking to address the issues raised by the dumping at Mobuoy.

Steven Agnew of the Green Party proposed an amendment to extend the inquiry across Northern Ireland, with particular reference to unauthorised quarries.

"Waste crime has not been given the attention it deserves," he said.

The DUP's Pam Cameron said: "Illegal waste disposal is not only an unsightly blight on our landscape but has a further cost to society regarding health and wealth.

"Evidence suggests that the crime is not happening on an ad hoc basis but instead is connected with organised crime."

Colum Eastwood of the SDLP said he was "absolutely devastated and extremely angry" over the existence of the dump in his constituency.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said illegal dumping was nothing new.

He said the Northern Ireland Environment Agency had allowed "big-time criminals" to profit from illegal dumping while cracking down on minor offenders.

Mr Elliott said the answer was not a public inquiry but to put resources into tackling the major offenders.

Supporting the call for a public inquiry, Anna Lo of Alliance said that if complaints made in 2007 had been followed up, "this crime could have been stopped six years ago".

The motion was passed as amended by the Green Party.

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