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The Actio Popularis, Aarhus Convention and class actions in Ireland

Ireland currently has a limited form of class action. It is the “actio popularis”.

It is not like the US form of class action; it is not of direct benefit to individual members of the public. They get the benefit when they are in the class that benefits from the judgment. They do not simply lodge their claim for compensation, say.

The Irish courts have accepted “actio popularis” claims in only one such proceedings; Digital Rights Ireland Ltd. v The Minister For Communication, Marine And Natural Resources and Ors.

(McGarr Solicitors acted for Digital Rights Ireland Ltd. and the proceedings are still in being and under way. More on this later this month.)

In India, the actio popularis has been used to secure;

“…the right to health, livelihood, free and compulsory primary education, unpolluted environment, shelter, clean drinking water, privacy, legal aid, speedy trial, and several rights of under-trials, convicts and prisoners.”

Currently, in Ireland, the action most like an actio popularis is the right, under the Aarhus Convention and EU law to have access to the courts at reasonable cost to protect the environment.

Irish governments have resisted this right fiercely, but, unlike the actio popularis, it is available readily wherever the threat to the environment is of the kind protected by EU law.