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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Leah Farrell/ Ossian Smyth
# Biodiversity
Rewilding row: Green minister warns of ‘horrible conservative scaremongering’ on EU nature law
Ossian Smyth said he was ‘not happy’ that Fine Gael’s EU party, the EPP had walked out of talks on the issue.

JUNIOR MINISTER OSSIAN Smyth has said he is “not happy” about the European People’s Party (EPP) decision to walk out of negotiations on the EU’s nature restoration law.

The EPP – of which Fine Gael is a member in the European Parliament – pulled out of committee talks yesterday, saying it had “serious concerns” that the law would threaten food production in Europe and push the cost of food up.

The European Commission says the law is a key element of the EU biodiversity strategy, which calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

Smyth, a Green Party TD for Dún Laoghaire, said he was “disappointed” with the EPP.

“Forget the coalition and politics, I think Irish people love nature and want to protect it,” he said.

Smyth said the proposal is not yet law and negotiations remained “vague” and “very broad”.

“The principle of it is that we would protect nature on a portion of European land and that we would find a way to compensate farmers and landowners for protecting nature and that it would be done on a voluntary basis.”


The proposals include targets for the restoration and rewetting of drained peatlands. This has become politically contentious in Ireland in recent weeks, with debate focusing on to what extent land that was drained in the past for agricultural use may need to be rewetted.

The Irish Farmers’ Association attended a protest in Brussels today on the issue.

The EPP’s chief negotiator on nature restoration, MEP Christine Schneider, said: “We cannot continue as if nothing has happened to our economy since the start of the war and the excessive pressure it puts on our rural communities and our farmers. The EPP Group is in favour of nature protection and restoration, but this law is simply not good enough.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously said there are aspects of the proposed laws that “go too far”.

When asked by Rural Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae earlier this month what the Government will do to protect rural people and farmland, Varadkar said the nature restoration law is only a proposed European law.

“I want to make it very clear that it is a proposal at this stage. We all understand the need to protect nature and restore biodiversity loss to allow nature to regrow but there are aspects of it that go too far in my view, particularly if it comes to taking agricultural land out of use for food production and, indeed, in urban areas, there are issues where it might become harder, for example, to turn a grass pitch into an all-weather pitch.”

Varadkar said there is “a long way to go before this regulation is right”.


Speaking to RTE radio, Smyth said he would continue to work with his coalition partners on the matter.

He criticised what he called “horrible conservative scaremongering” over the issue.

“I want the public to go to their public representatives and say: ‘Actually, my quality of life is improved by nature and I want you to protect nature and I’m horrified by the reduction in species’.

“This isn’t about some species going extinct in Africa or Asia. This is about our country, losing our plants and animals and trees and leaving nothing for the next generation.”

He said he was sure this would be a “major topic” when his party leader Eamon Ryan meets Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar next Monday.

Press Association
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