Lough Neagh: Executive decision holding up environmental improvement plan they've had since March

DAERA Minister Andrew Muir setting out his priorities at the Balmoral Show
DAERA Minister Andrew Muir setting out his priorities at the Balmoral Show -Credit:Shauna Corr

The Northern Ireland Executive is yet to make a decision on an environmental improvement plan that could help Lough Neagh, that its had since March.

Environment minister Andrew Muir says he has "been seeking" an Executive decision on the cross cutting strategy, which will be Northern Ireland's first, since.

And that plans setting out they will deal with the toxic algae plaguing Lough Neagh will be announced soon.

Read more: Activists take fight to 'save' Lough Neagh to Lord Shaftesbury's Dorset estate

Read more: Lough Neagh protectors rally at Stormont with five demands

Speaking to Belfast Live after setting out his priorities for DAERA at the Balmoral Show, Minister Muir said: "I am very keen that we move in relation to this.

"The environmental improvement plan, which will be Northern Ireland's first environment strategy, is cross cutting so it needs approval by the Executive. I have been seeking approval for that since March. I will continue to seek that.

"In relation to the protocol in responding to blue-green algae blooms, we will hopefully be announcing that very soon," he added.

"In terms of the particular actions around that, we are nearly there."

In relation to funding to tackle Lough Neagh and other environmental issues, the minister said: "It's a bit of a dessert. We need to make sustained investment in our environment - not just in relation to actions around Lough Neagh."

Following bids to the Executive for funding, he said: "I got £1.6m of capital which won't touch the sides for what I need to do."

But he added: "I am working with officials in terms of our own budget and we can reprioritise environmental protection.

"I am working with the Finance Minister in terms of future support in terms of Northern Ireland and making a case to Treasury. We need to change the die here in terms of how we invest in the environment.

"The cost of inaction will be really substantial. We need substantial investment in our environment... I want to make a significant change in terms of how we invest for the future and I will be working with my Executive colleagues to do that.

"The situation has developed over decades. I'm not going to found wanting in terms of the actions but I am going to be taking multiple actions in relation to this in the weeks and months and years ahead.

"I am very keen that we take a strategic approach to this because the catchment area of Lough Neagh is very significant."

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our daily newsletter here.