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Environmental Governance in Northern Ireland

Informing environmental governance reform in Northern Ireland and supporting the Environmental NGO sector.


Scandals have catapulted Northern Ireland’s environmental governance failures into the public eye. They include:
  • the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) debacle
  • the discovery of illegal dumping on a massive scale
Financial implications of these failures – which extend far beyond new headlines - are epic in scale. They have played a key role in destabilising Stormont’s political institutions. They now threaten the economic viability of the state.
To many, the impending crisis is no surprise. The environmental governance problem in Northern Ireland is well documented in the past 30 years.
This project, led by Ciara Brennan, examines the:
  • reasons why environmental governance in Northern Ireland has been so problematic
  • cost of government failure in this context for the people of Northern Ireland
Research focuses on the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences. It looks at these in context of epic failures of successive devolved administrations to:
  • take environmental governance seriously
  • respond to critiques of the performance of the environmental regulator
  • ensure the effective enforcement of environmental law
Its overarching goal is to provide evidence-based research outputs. These can contribute to options for dealing with this ongoing problem in a turbulent political environment.
Collapsing political institutions at Stormont and issues associated with Brexit may stymie reform. It may present a unique opportunity to reinvent environmental governance. It could begin the process of remedying the damage caused by years of neglect.

Environmental Justice Network Ireland

The Environmental Justice Network Ireland (EJNI) is a community of practice involving:
  • interdisciplinary academic researchers
  • NGOs
  • regulatory staff
  • environmental lawyers
  • representatives from industry
  • politicians
  • community activists
  • 'barefoot lawyers and planners'
It's particularly timely given the:
  • collapse of the devolved government in Northern Ireland
  • policy-making vacuum that has developed in its wake
  • increasing recognition of the cross-border nature of many environmental challenges faced in Ireland
  • risk that Brexit creates for environmental protection across the island
The network launched in Belfast on Tuesday 25th June 2019. The launch event was a springboard for a long-term programme of activities. These are delivered via a phased approach. They're designed to bring about an enhanced quality of environmental justice on Ireland.
The project is transdisciplinary in nature. The event was filmed and uploaded on the project website.


Peer Reviewed Articles:

  • Ciara Brennan, Ray Purdy and Peter Hjerp, ‘Political, Economic and Environmental Crisis in Northern Ireland: The True Cost of Environmental Governance Failures and Opportunities for Reform’ (2017) Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 68(2) 123-157.
  • Ciara Brennan, ‘The Enforcement of Waste Regulation in Northern Ireland: Deterrence, Dumping and the Dynamics of Devolution’ (2016) Journal of Environmental Law (28)3, 471-496.

Policy Papers and Reports:

Consultation Responses:


Blogs and Press

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