Ireland is in fact a signatory to the Aarhus Convention, (but has not formally ratified it) . The European Union is also a signatory. Consequently, EU environmental law [e.g., Directive 2003/4/EC; Directive 2003/35/EC] is already driving the âimplementationâ? of the Convention. It was only a matter of time before Ireland had to âimplementâ? the Convention. Ireland has been a great procrastinator (HERE & HERE ) in the implementation of EU environmental law. (Twenty one years passed between the first EU waste Directive and the introduction of the Waste Management Act 1996).
On 11th June 2007, just three days prior to the conclusion of the âprogramme for governmentâ?, the European Court of Justice found Ireland still in breach of Directive 79/923/EEC, intended to protect shellfish in coastal waters.
The Convention is valuable; as the wikipedia article, linked to above, says,
The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.
It will be interesting to see if the commitment to implement the Convention will follow or depart from the current resolute approach of division of functions between planning control (and enforcement) and environmental protection (best seen HERE)
It will also be interesting to see how âaccess to justiceâ? in environmental cases will be squared with the judicial rush to close down the opportunity to challenge administrative acts by judicial review by requiring applicants to move âpromptlyâ? for relief.
Current law in Ireland does not appear to conform to the aims of the Convention. At the very least Order 84 of the Rules of the Superior Courts will require amendment. Paragraph 21 (1) thereof reads:
21. (1) An application for leave to apply for judicial review shall be made promptly and in any event within three months from the date when grounds for the application first arose, or six months where the relief sought is certiorari, unless the Court considers that there is good reason for extending the period within which the application shall be made.
The Green Party has a mountain to climb.