The Environmental Pillar coalition of 26 national organisations has welcomed the comments of the new Chief Justice on the practical difficulties and barriers to accessing justice in Ireland.
Mr Justice Frank Clarke’s comments ‘underline the urgent need for Government to speed up its work in adopting genuine access to justice rules for environmental cases which should have been solved through Ireland’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention’, it contends. ‘According to the government’s latest legislative programme “work is underway” to update our legal provisions to fully comply with the Aarhus Convention.’
The Pillar adds however that five years after Ireland’s ‘belated ratification of the Convention’ there is ‘abject failure’ to adhere to the access to justice provisions in the Convention.
‘For example, it is explicitly clear in the Convention that an applicant should be able to pursue a review of decisions without it being prohibitively expensive’.
Attracta Uí Bhroin, facilitator or the Environmental Law Implementation Group at the Irish Environmental Network, says issues remain regarding Ireland’s implementation: “It is now several years since the Government acknowledged issues with its implementation of Aarhus Access to Justice Obligations and proposed an Aarhus Bill – yet this bill has fallen off the table with the current government.”
The Government’s latest legislation programme which issued in early September, states that ‘work is underway’ to update legal provisions to fully comply with the Aarhus Convention.
“Unless this long-awaited work gets underway fast, the Government is sending a clear message to the Irish people that its commitment to fully implement the Aarhus Convention is nothing but an empty promise.”
Charles Stanley-Smith, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said that in many areas, access to justice still operates like the Ritz hotel: “Anyway can enter the lobby but only the wealthy can afford to say there.”