Northern Ireland

Delay in returning illegal dump waste from NI to Republic

Illegal waste being removed from NI farm
Image caption The process of digging up illegal waste from land in Northern Ireland and bringing it back to the Republic of Ireland has cost taxpayers dear on both sides of the Irish border

Lack of landfill capacity in the Republic of Ireland is holding up the repatriation of waste from illegal dumps in Northern Ireland.

The cost of digging it up and moving it back across the Irish border is furthering delays.

Seventeen sites containing 273,000 tonnes of waste were identified some years ago.

Twelve of them have been cleared with 93,000 tonnes of waste sent back under a cross-border agreement.

But the five remaining sites were the most significant, Agriculture and Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen told the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Four new sites have also been uncovered in County Tyrone this year.

Ms McIlveen said it was unacceptable that the situation was continuing, even though waste repatriation began in 2010.

She said she had pressed the issue at a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council and expressed her disappointment about the pace of progress.

"The issues that I understand are in relation to cost, but also with regard to a lack of capacity for land waste in the Irish Republic," said Ms McIlveen.

Marker dye

The five historic sites still to be cleared are in Cookstown, County Tyrone; Crumlin and Portglenone in County Antrim; and two in Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

Two of the four sites found this year were in Galbally, with the others being in Ballgawley and Sandholes in County Tyrone.

The cross-border agreement on waste repatriation was signed following the threat of European fines over the illegal landfills.

Ms McIlveen also told the assembly that since the introduction of a new marker dye last April, the reporting of dumping of fuel-laundering waste had gone down.

But she said that between May 2013 and April 2016 her officials had cleared 3,141 tonnes of diesel sludge, with the bulk of the 423 cases found in counties Armagh and Down.

She said between May 2013 and June 2015 there had been five convictions for the dumping of fuel-laundering waste, producing fines worth £25,000.

She said two other cases were still before the courts.