Air pollution in Ireland is deteriorating at an alarming rate, according to new EPA data for 2016 [1]. Emissions of all five key air pollutants increased that year. Of these, three, namely ammonia, nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds were, for the first time, above normal EU emissions levels in 2016 [2].

Some 99% of ammonia emissions in Ireland are as a result of the application of fertilisers, both animal manures and artificial nitrates. Ireland agricultural lobbyists recently secured yet another derogation from the EU Nitrates Directive, which aims to protect air and water quality from excessive nitrogen usage.

The EPA confirmed that “Ammonia limits have been breached due to the rapid expansion of dairy and beef production in Ireland in recent years”. An Taisce now asks Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed if he will take personal responsibility for reversing this upsurge in ammonia pollution his department has specifically lobbied in favour of? How can this be done, when the EPA report states “Limiting and reducing NH3 emissions into the future could be problematic given the strong performance of the agriculture sector in line with the ambitious targets of Food Wise 2025”. As the EPA further points out, this will “cause damage to air quality and health and make future compliance with EU limits more challenging.”

Nitrogen oxides, another extremely dangerous class of air pollutants, also exceeded EU safe limits in 2016. Transport (41%) and agriculture (29.6%) were the largest Irish sources. Health impacts of nitrogen oxides include diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Also, this EPA report does not address the adequacy of current monitoring of pollution blackspots in urban areas, especially those with high levels of particulate matter pollution.

“Ireland’s abject failure to pursue a clean, low-carbon pathway is often portrayed as being abstract and remote from the lives of ordinary people. What the EPA’s data shows clearly is the very real human costs of letting agriculture and transport special interests dominate our politics and endanger the health and well-being of thousands of Irish citizens, as well as adding billions to our healthcare costs”, according to An Taisce.


For further information, contact:
Ian Lumley, An Taisce Advocacy Officer: +353 1 454 1786
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. Link to full EPA ‘Air Pollutant Emissions’ 2016 report
  2. A new allowance mechanism ratified in 2017 means the NOx and NMVOC levels can be reduced and as a result the Irish values drop below the EU level. From the report "Ireland ’s submission includes adjusted national emission inventories for NOx and NMVOC, as allowed under Article 5(1) of Directive 2016/2284 in accordance with Part 4 of Annex IV, as Ireland is non-compliant with national emission reduction commitments as a result of applying improved emission inventory methods updated in accordance with scientific knowledge. Essentially this flexibility mechanism allows Member States to subtract emissions from new sources which have been included in the national inventory since the reduction commitments or ceilings were established or where the emission factors used to estimate emissions have changed significantly based on new science. Ireland’s adjustments were approved following review under Article 10(3) of Directive 2016/2284 in June 2017."
  3. An Taisce’s Submission on the Public Consultation to Inform the Development of a National Clean Air Strategy (2017).

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.