Linking the Irish Environment

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The island of Ireland is a single biogeographic unit with shared landscapes, water sources, flora and fauna. We are in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis on the island and both jurisdictions face similar challenges in addressing these crises. Protecting this common environment is dependent on coherent policy-making, high standards and regulations and enforcement on both sides of the border. Increasing cross border cooperation and policy-making provides a real opportunity to improve the environment on an all-island basis. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit) threatens this cooperation and shared standards and thus presents a significant risk to the all-island environmental integrity of the island of Ireland.

The Irish Environmental Network (IEN) and Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) have been working together for a number of years to understand and highlight these risks and to identify policy and practical solutions to shared environmental challenges. As part of this work we commissioned a report ‘Linking the Irish Environment’ to examine how best to enable the environment sector across the island to cooperate and engage on an all-island and cross-border basis to deal with these shared challenges, risks, and opportunities. The research team was as follows: Dr. Ciara Brennan (Environmental Justice Network Ireland), Dr. Finbarr Brereton (UCD), Dr. Mary Dobbs (MU), Dr. Viviane Gravey (QUB), Hannah Gould (UCD), Alison Hough BL (TUS) and Dr. Lisa Whitten (QUB).

This report builds on the 2019 report written by Alison Hough, ‘Brexit, the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and the Environment: Issues arising and possible solutions’ and commission by IEN and NIEL. It examines the state of play regarding the current environmental regulatory and governance arrangements on the island, including the Protocol, the TCA, Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, international agreements and the level and experience of practical cooperation on the environment across the island. It also includes a series of recommendations and advocacy priorities to advance citizens’ and NGO engagement in all-island environmental issues.

The report was launched at a special seminar event in Belfast to mark and discuss 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement/Belfast Agreement and the challenges and solutions to protecting the all-island environment. Expert panellists and speakers on the day included the research authors and the following:

Special Guest Speaker: Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General at IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature.


  • Dr. Jeanne Moore, Senior Policy Analyst National Economic and Social Council
  • Mark Hanniffy, Joint Secretary to the North South Ministerial Council (Department of Foreign Affairs)
  • Malcolm Beatty OBE, Northern Ireland Board Member for the Office of Environmental Protection
  • Dave Foster, Director of Natural Environment Policy · Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (NI)
  • Karen Ciesielski Irish Environmental Network CEO
  • Peter Day, Director of Engagement, Northern Ireland Community Relations Council
  • Dr. Anthony Soares, Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies
  • Declan McGarrigle, Director of PEACEPLUS Development, Special EU. Programmes Body

Since the launch of the report in June 2023, a number of significant developments have taken place at a political and legislative level which are relevant for north/south cooperation on the environment. These include the restoration of Stormont and a major legislative development at UK level, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023. This update provides a high level overview of the relevant developments and their potential impact on north/south cooperation.