Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Ceisteanna (203)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

203. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason for the delay in progressing the long-promised Aarhus Convention Bill; if the Bill will allow for financial assistance for community and environmental groups to seek expert advice in relation to planning and environmental issues in view of the fact that major planning applications contain detailed and technical documents which can be hard for lay persons to properly understand and critique; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (The Aarhus Convention) was adopted on 25 June 1998. Ireland ratified the Convention on 20 June 2012. The Aarhus Convention and related EU Directives had, prior to ratification, been given legal effect in Ireland by over 60 pieces of legislation and additional subsequent legislation has further reinforced its integration into Irish law. These provisions have significantly expanded the public’s access to information and justice on the environment.

Due to the far-reaching nature of these legislative changes which gave effect the Aarhus Convention in Ireland, and in order to take due cognisance of the ongoing evolution of environmental law through judgements of national and EU Courts, my Department is preparing the general scheme of a Bill to consolidate and amend certain existing provisions in a single Aarhus Convention Bill, with the intention of providing greater legal clarity.

Progress of this Bill has been dependent on a number of outside factors, particularly the necessity of awaiting a number of Aarhus-related judgements from both the national courts and of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

I look forward to publishing the General Scheme at the earliest possible date.