COMMUNITY-BASED campaign groups have called on the Government to ratify a United Nations convention on public access to information, participation and justice in environmental decision-making.
Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that has not yet ratified the Aarhus convention, which was adopted in 1998. Former minister for the environment John Gormley pledged to do so, but left office before he could fulfil the promise.
At the first All-Ireland Community Campaigns Gathering in Dublin at the weekend, it was claimed that communities from Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, to Rossport, Co Mayo, would have been “spared a decade of distress” if Aarhus had been transposed into Irish law.
Mamie Bowen, of the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase), said: “Instead of signing international conventions such as Aarhus, the Irish Government is busy signing licences to allow private corporations impose dangerous projects on communities.”
She cited the decision by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last Friday to approve a foreshore licence application by Shell EP Ireland for the Corrib gas pipeline in northwest Mayo – despite concerns locally about safety and other issues.
“When Chase first took a legal action [against plans by Indaver Ireland for a hazardous waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy] 11 residents risked losing their homes in order to fund the legal challenge. The Aarhus convention would have protected them from this risk.”
The weekend gathering was attended by activists involved in campaigns from Cork, Derry, Donegal, Dublin, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo and Tyrone. Its aim was to learn from each other’s experiences, find common cause “and plan how to work together to win”.
One of the organisers, Jerrieann Sullivan, said: “It was inspiring to see campaigners from all over Ireland finding common experience in their struggle against corrupt, profit-oriented projects that threaten the health, safety and environment of affected communities.”