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Decades of systemic failure to take environmental protection seriously has brought Northern Ireland to the brink of environmental, and now political and economic disaster. This article will consider the reasons why environmental governance in this jurisdiction has continued to be so problematic and the cost of government failure in this context for the people of Northern Ireland. It will set out the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences of the epic failures of successive devolved administrations to take environmental governance seriously, to respond to critiques of the performance of the environmental regulator and to ensure the effective enforcement of environmental law. Finally, it will consider options for dealing with this ongoing problem in a turbulent political environment where collapsing political institutions at Stormont and wider constitutional issues associated with the UK’s plans to leave the EU may continue to stymie reform or present a unique opportunity to reinvent environmental governance and begin the process of remedying the damage caused by years of neglect.