Friday 31 August 2007

EU says action against State over Tara motorway only at first stage

The European Commission has said reports that Ireland faces tens of millions of euro in fines over its plans to build a motorway close to Tara were exaggerated.

A spokeswoman for environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said yesterday the commission had so far only sent a "reasoned opinion" to the Government and there was a long way to go before fines could be imposed on the State.

However, she said it was the commission's view that the Government needed to adjust its national monument law and produce a second impact assessment before any construction work took place on the motorway.

Earlier this year the commission issued a reasoned opinion to the Government asking it to carry out a comprehensive assessment of what impact the road would have on the Tara Skryne Valley before the proposed M3 motorway road is built in the area.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley also played down fears that the Government could be hit with tens of millions of euro in EU fines over the work at Tara.

"I've seen newspaper reports which are just inaccurate . . . what we have is a reasoned opinion . . . people will make a response to that and then make a judgment. It [the EU document] is a 20-page document and there are only five paragraphs dealing with Lismullen," Mr Gormley told Éamon Keane on the Lunchtime show on Newstalk.

A reasoned opinion is the first step in a lengthy EU process. A fine is usually only imposed if a state subsequently loses a case at the European Court of Justice, and then proceeds to ignore the ruling.

Jamie Smyth

© 2007 The Irish Times 30.09.07

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