CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans for the country’s first toxic waste incinerator have pleaded with the Government not to pursue them for substantial legal costs following what they called a “devastating” court ruling.
The Supreme Court awarded costs to the State and to Indaver against residents of Cork Harbour relating to its decision in July not to adjourn incinerator cases pending a European Court of Justice case against Ireland.
The court said as this appeal had failed, there was no reason for it to depart from the normal practice of requiring the unsuccessful party to be responsible for costs.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and An Bórd Pleanála told the court they are not looking for their costs.
Residents fighting the €75 million incinerator are facing a substantial legal bill, potentially hundreds of thousands of euro.
Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said the decision will have huge financial implications for people around the country “sticking up for their own community”.
“This will undermine the principle of the participation by community groups in public debate and public campaigns,” he said.
Green Party Senator Dan Boyle said he was very unhappy with the decision.
“The State can and should withdraw its demand for costs and I will argue that point to Government,” he said.
Indaver managing director John Ahern said he will not make a decision on the costs until other cases pending have been determined.
“We question the wisdom of the objectors continuing with a case which we believe we will be successful in,” he said.
The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) said the Supreme Court decision sent shockwaves through harbour communities.
CHASE chairwoman Mary O’Leary said this would be “an acid test” of Environment Minister John Gormley’s “green credentials”.
“He must ensure that the communities who sought important clarification on a matter of planning law don’t suffer for bringing this to the state’s attention,” she said.
Ms O’Leary and Mr Gormley were among a delegation which travelled to Brussels in spring 2004 to lodge a complaint with the EU about alleged breaches of planning law.
It led to a European Court of Justice case against the State on the grounds of non-compliance with an European Commission (EC) directive on Environmental Impact Assessments on significant projects.
The residents wanted judicial review proceedings relating to the incinerator adjourned, pending the outcome of the EU’s case against Ireland.
Ms O’Leary said groups fighting the incinerator will be pleading with Mr Gormley not to pursue them for costs.
“We should not be punished to bringing this to the attention of the State,” she said.
The minister is due to open a climate change conference in Cork on Friday and is likely to be met with protests.
More than 30,000 people have objected to the planned incinerator, citing health concerns.