The Green Party has said EU anti-discrimination laws must be upheld, following a European Commission ruling against Irish local authorities' practice of restricting planning permission to locals or fluent Irish speakers.
Minister for the Environment John Gormley had not yet received the commission's letter yesterday and his department said it would not be commenting on the ruling until official notification was received.
However, Mr Gormley's party has said its position is that while it does not favour unplanned haphazard development, EU laws guaranteeing equal treatment must be respected.
The EU has ordered Ireland to explain why 23 authorities discriminate in favour of local people. After months of examining the issue, officials believe the rules break articles 43 and 56 of the EC treaty which guarantees freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital.
They examined planning rules in Carlow, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Fingal, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Laois, Longford, Limerick, Louth, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary north and south, Wexford, Westmeath and Wicklow.
These authorities require either residency or family ties to the area before giving permission for one-off houses. Several authorities require that an applicant be employed locally in agriculture.
Mr Gormley has two months to respond to the letter which states: "The commission requests observations from Ireland on the discriminatory aspects of the restrictions, their objectives, and the proportionality of the measures with the objectives pursued." The Green Party yesterday said there was a "fundamental dilemma" because the demand for rural housing vastly outstripped infrastructure and services capacity and unplanned urban sprawl could not be tolerated, but EU laws could not be ignored.
Local authorities yesterday said they would be studying the EU ruling to assess its implications.
© 2007 The Irish Times