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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Caroline O'Doherty

Duncan Stewart signs off Eco Eye show with a jab at industrial farming and environmental regulators

Duncan Stewart

Environmental regulation in Ireland is set up to avoid having to take responsibility, Duncan Stewart has said in his parting words on screen.

One of the country’s leading ecologists and the creator of the Eco Eye television series, Mr Stewart is speaking on the last ever episode of the show which is being dropped after 20 years.

The episode is dedicated to water quality which is in dramatic decline in the country’s rivers, lakes and estuaries.

Mr Stewart describes the devastating impact of agricultural intensification on water quality, in particular the rapid expansion of dairy herds over the past decade.

He recalls that when the EU Water Framework Directive became law, the same year that Eco Eye went on air, he had hopes that Ireland would finally begin to take water quality seriously.

Instead, despite the proliferation of agencies established to oversee water quality and the billions of euro spent on infrastructure in that time, the problem has only worsened.

“Ireland's water issues are similar to so many of our environmental problems where the system seems designed so that there is nobody really accountable for failures,” he says.

The last show airs tonight on RTE 1 at 8pm, bringing to an end 21 series of the ground-breaking programme.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which was its main sponsor, has withdrawn its support and Mr Stewart and his producer son, Marcus, have been unable to find an alternative source of funding.

RTE declined to take over funding the programme and instead issued an open call for a replacement series which it says will air from the autumn.

News of the programme’s dropping was greeted with dismay by its many fans and professionals working in the fields of environment and sustainability.

Anja Murray, one of the series co-presenters, said she was “gutted” and not reassured by RTE’s intention to air a replacement.

“I’m not sure they realise that all the nice ‘nature’ programming is different to covering biodiversity issues,” she tweeted.

“A wealth of expertise is now in jeopardy. It’s a huge loss for sure”

Another co-presenter, Dr Lara Dungan, said the loss of the show was very sad. “Its absence will leave a big hole in Irish television,” she said.

UCD lecturer and Climate Change Advisory Council member, Dr Cara Augustenborg, said she was also saddened.

“That team has done more to raise environmental awareness in Ireland than anything else on offer,” she said.

SWAN Ireland, the Sustainable Water Network, was among the NGOs that also expressed their concern at the show’s ending.

Fianna Fail climate spokesman, Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan said the series would be sorely missed.

“Fact based environmental broadcasting is all too rare on the airwaves,” he said.

Both the EPA and RTE praised the series, saying it had led the way in bringing environmental and climate issues to television audiences.

The EPA, however, it was looking to reach “new and diverse, evolving audiences” and added it received more applications for support year than it had funds to give.

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