Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (87)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

74 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Aarhus Convention provides for the right to challenge in a court of law public decisions that have been made without respecting environmental law (details supplied); his views on whether the system here by which challenges to public decisions may incur huge legal costs is contrary to the Aarhus Convention; and if he will implement a public interest law mechanism whereby important points of environmental law can be dealt with quickly and without the threat of costs being awarded against citizens attempting to do their civic duty by ensuring Ireland’s environment is afforded the highest level of protection. [27593/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. Progress towards ratification of the convention is closely aligned with work at EU level. To date, the European Union has adopted two directives as part of its ratification process for the convention. These deal with public access to environmental information, 2003/4/EC, and public participation in certain environmental decision-making procedures, 2003/35/EC. Work is continuing in my Department on the transposition into Irish law of these two directives. Transposition will be required by February 2005 in the case of Directive 2003/4/EC and by June 2005 in the case of Directive 2003/35/EC.

With regard to the access to justice pillar of the convention, work is continuing at EU level in drafting a directive which would, in due course, be transposed into the national law of the different member states. The issues raised in the question will be borne in mind in this context.