EU COMMISSION officials have warned the Irish government that it faces heavy fines if it fails to come into line with the 1992 nitrates directive.

A meeting between the two sides was held on Monday (Jan 31), at which the Dublin officials staunchly defended their draft action programme, submitted to Brussels for approval last November.

This was based on the so-called “Brosnan proposals”, after mediator Denis Brosnan, who pulled the plan together. The scheme divides Ireland into three zones, with different slurry spreading and storage restrictions for each.

ZONES 

But the commission is insisting on changes to the zones, extensions to the closed periods for slurry spreading and a commensurate increase in the minimum storage capacities.

“We were able to tease out a bit more about the commission”s concerns, but they also emphasised to us the full legal steps that would be taken if we failed to comply with the nitrates directive,” said a department of agriculture spokesman.

The commission has already sent a first legal warning to the Irish government, giving it until Mar 22 to come into line with a previous European Court ruling. If it fails to do so, this will be followed up with a “reasoned opinion”, giving Dublin a final two months to comply.

“After that, we can submit a proposal to the European Court for a fine,” said a commission spokeswoman.