Wednesday 12 November 2008

Ringaskiddy waste incinerator objectors face paying legal costs

THE SUPREME Court has ordered the Ringaskiddy and District Residents' Association and a number of individuals to pay the legal costs of their unsuccessful attempts to further adjourn two legal challenges to the proposed €75 million development of the State's first hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.

The local groups expressed dismay at the ruling last night. The EPA and An Bord Pleanála have indicated they will not pursue the costs. Residents and local representatives are now appealing to Indaver and the State to do likewise.

The residents had sought the adjournments pending the outcome of a legal action against Ireland in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the European Commission. The action is based on the commission's formal view that Ireland failed to properly transpose into Irish law an EC directive relating to the environmental impact assessment of public and private projects, including incinerators.

The two cases concerning the incinerator were initiated in 2005 and will be mentioned in the High Court next week with a view to getting full hearing dates.

Among the grounds on which the residents challenge the proposed incinerator is that the same directive was not properly transposed into Irish law. The Supreme Court had in another case ruled the directive was properly transposed.

The High Court last May refused to adjourn the two cases, and the five-judge Supreme Court last July dismissed the residents' appeal against that refusal.

Chief Justice Mr Justice John Murray said the residents, within the terms they had argued, had failed to establish a substantial risk of conflict between decisions of the Irish courts and the ECJ if the cases went ahead before the ECJ hearing.

The European Commission had announced in October 2007 it was bringing its case against Ireland but no proceedings had yet begun, he noted.

The proceedings came back before the Supreme Court yesterday to deal with the issue of costs of the applications to adjourn. The court ruled that costs must "follow the event", meaning the winning sides get their costs. The decision means the residents' association and all but three of a group of local residents who took separate proceedings must pay the costs of An Bord Pleanála, the EPA, the State and Indaver in relation to the motions to defer.

Cork Labour TD Ciarán Lynch has called on Minister for the Environment John Gormley and on Indaver to make similar indications of intention, that they would not be pursuing costs, as have the EPA and An Bord Pleanála.

He said yesterday's court decision would send out a shockwave to local groups throughout the country as to the financial implications of sticking up for their own areas and communities.

"This decision will undermine the concept and the principle of the participation by community groups in public debate and public campaigns and, as a result, the planning process is in danger of becoming a charter for the rich and powerful," said Mr Lynch.

A spokeswoman for Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment said the decision was devastating, but it remained within the power of the State and Indaver not to pursue the costs if they so chose. "Pursuing costs exposes Indaver's claims to be a good neighbour as complete farce, but we expected better from the State," she said.

The Irish Times

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