12 NOVEMBER, 2019


Industrial peat extraction at risk as EU Court triples fines requested by Commission

Ongoing weekly fine of €100,005 by EU Court highlights ‘a matter of indisputable seriousness’

An angry European Court of Justice ruled today that Ireland’s conduct shows that it has ‘not acted in accordance with its duty of sincere cooperation to put an end to the failure to fulfil obligations’ under the EU Directive on Environmental Assessment.

The Judgment arose out of the failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment for a windfarm in Derrybrien County Galway, that led to a massive landslide on October 16, 2003 during which tonnes of peat were dislodged, polluting the Owendalulleegh River and killing 50,000 fish. ‘Ireland has still not carried out, by way of regularisation, an environmental impact assessment of the wind farm’, the Court pointed out. ‘Consequently, Ireland has not taken the minimum steps required to comply with the judgment of 3 July 2008’.

To emphasise the ‘indisputable seriousness’, the European Court of Justice imposed greater penalties on Ireland than sought by the European Commission. The Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Directorate-General Environment had sought a lump sum fine of €1,685,000 and an ongoing daily fine of €12,264. The Court set the lump sum at triple the Commission’s request at €5,000,000 and raised the daily fine to €15,000. It pointed out that ‘The objective of setting a penalty payment is precisely to ensure compliance with that judgment.’

Friends of the Irish Environment’s Tony Lowes said that ‘This is only the beginning. The failure by the State to require Environmental Impact Assessments for industrial peat extraction was already under investigation by the European Commission as part of ‘Pilot’ proceedings. The wheels of justice in European move slowly but they move. The Commission is aware of the High Court’s recent striking down of Minister Bruton and Minister Murphy’s attempt to exempt peat extraction from planning controls. This deviousness has only increased the State’s vulnerability to yet more fines for flouting EU environmental law as no peat extractors, including Bord na Mona, have ever been subject to the Environmental Assessment Directive.



Tony Lowes: 353 (0)27 74771 353 (0) 87 2176316

Irish language: David Healy 0876178852



Wild Atlantic Way ‘undermining quality and experience of Ireland’s wild coastal landscape’

An €7m Failte Ireland flagship project has attracted the opposition of three of Ireland’s leading environmental organisations.

An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, and Friends of the Irish Environment have all submitted extensive objections to the application by Cork County in partnership with Fáilte Ireland to An Bord Pleanala for a €7m development on Dursey Island off the west Cork coast.

The current 6-person cable car is to be replaced by a state-of-the-art two-way cable car system capable of carrying up to 300 people each way every hour. The project includes an extensive Visitor Centre with restaurant and gift shop on the mainland.

Compulsory purchase orders by the Council were issued last month to enable the construction of 16 passing bays in the 4 km spur from the main Beara peninsula road to accommodate an increase in visitor numbers to 80,000 per year.

All of the objections emphasise the decline in the numbers of Chough, a species with special protection under national and EU law and amber listed as a bird of conservation concern, citing the bird survey submitted with the application which shows a decline in chough numbers by 30% since 2003. In addition, the failure of the state to undertake a Chough census in 2012 means there is a knowledge gap on the national numbers of the species and caution is required in this hotspot for Chough in the South West. According to Friends of the Irish Environment, the only factor that has changed is the steadily increasing number of tourists, which reached 20,000 last year. They also question the use of EU funding for ‘transport based’ tourism projects.

All three objections highlight the lack of any Management Plan for the island. ‘The lack of conservation objectives for the site and the lack of an existing visitor management plan or SPA management plan means that there is no pathway for long term Chough conservation through which the proposed development could fit,’ BirdWatch Ireland’s objection states.

The submission by An Taisce states that ‘The inappropriate promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way as a private car route is undermining the quality and experience of the wild coastal landscape that it is seeking to promote and is creating congestion points. Projects seeking to attract larger visitor numbers, and consequently causing traffic generation and physical impacts, should not be located in areas of ecological or landscape sensitivity and which do not have the carrying capacity for the impact and service demand generated.’

Specifically, An Taisce drew attention to ‘The ecological sensitivity of Dursey as well as the narrow local road link from the national and regional road network which renders it unsuitable for a proposal of this scale. Promoting the large-scale expansion of volume-based day trip tourism to Dursey is undesirable on multiple grounds’.

‘The model for the future of tourism investment in West Cork should be non-car-based and promote longer stays accommodated in locations to a level commensurate with the capacity of the host environment rather than the high volume car or bus based day trip model upon which the subject project is based’, An Taisce concluded.

FIE’s Tony Lowes said that ‘Not since the Office of Public Works tried to build the Burren Interpretative Centre at Mullaghmore in 1992 has Ireland seen such an inappropriate proposal.’

The decision from An Bord Pleanala is expected on 9 March, 2020.


Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment
353 (0)87 2176316 / 353 (0)27 74771

Climate Case Ireland responds to EPA greenhouse gas figures: Irish government knowingly contributing to climate breakdown

The EPAs new Report on Irelands greenhouse gas emissions reveals that Ireland’s emissions amounted to a massive 60,506 kilotonnes CO2 equivalent in 2018, meaning that our emissions have increased by almost 10% between 1990 and 2018, when the government itself has agreed that our emissions need to decrease by 25-40% from 1990 to 2020 to help avert dangerous climate breakdown.

This report from the EPA demonstrates that the government’s 2017 National Mitigation Plan is failing to achieve the reductions in emissions that are necessary to respect our fundamental rights and keep all of us safe – just what we are saying in our Court Case.

Failure to reduce Ireland’s emissions in the short-term, which we know is essential to help prevent the worst impacts of climate breakdown, is tantamount to climate denial. This government is failing to listen to its children, its Citizens Assembly, and the best available climate science. This is climate vandalism.


 Climate Case Ireland, in their legal challenge against the Irish government’s inaction on climate change, argue that the failure of the State’s 2017 National Mitigation Plan to reduce Ireland’s emissions in the short-term violates citizens’ constitutional and human rights. [1]

A new report [2] published by the Environmental Protection Agency today reveals that Ireland’s emissions amounted to a massive 60,506 kilotonnes CO2 equivalent in 2018, meaning that our emissions have increased by almost 10% between 1990 and 2018, when the government itself has agreed that our emissions need to decrease by 25-40% from 1990 to 2020 to help avert dangerous climate breakdown.

The energy sector was one of the only areas in which emissions reduced over the past year but this was not because of a proactive policy response to the climate crisis, but instead because Moneypoint coal power station was closed for part of the year for maintenance works and then because of a high carbon price in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, meaning it was not economic to operate the power station. In addition:

● Household emissions increased by a staggering 7.9% year-on-year, demonstrating the alarming consequences of failure to address energy efficiency and renewable energy in the housing sector.

● Transport emissions increased by 1.7% - an increase for the fifth year in a row, and 137% above 1990 levels. [3]

● Agricultural emissions increased 1.9% due to the sector’s unsustainable expansion of dairy production.

Spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland Tony Lowes commented:

“. We agree with the EPA’s conclusion that urgent change is needed across all sectors of Irish society, but this needs to be government-led.”

He continued: “The crux of the matter is that the costs will be counted in lives (people are already dying in Ireland [4] and in many other countries as a result of the climate crisis [5]). The evidence is clear, and scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades. Either we reduce emissions urgently to stay below (an extremely volatile) 1.5C, or we allow emissions to spiral beyond control, and fail to sustain a habitable planet.”

“As well as putting lives and homes at risk, the government’s disregard of our 2020 emissions reduction targets will cost Irish taxpayers hundreds of millions of euro - money we desperately need to invest right now in the transition to a low-carbon economy.”


“This report from the EPA demonstrates that by failing to achieve reductions in emissions consistent with climate science, the Irish government is knowingly contributing to climate breakdown. It seems that the government has declared a leisurely climate emergency. We know that it is not a question of if we will transition to a low-carbon economy, but when. By delaying action, the government is effectively guaranteeing a more disruptive and difficult or even impossible transition.”



For further information, contact:

Tony Lowes, 087 2176316, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read about the case and the first judgment

[1] Climate Case Ireland is a legal challenge taken by Friends of the Irish Environment against the Irish government. The High Court ruled against Friends of the Irish Environment in September 2019. Friends of the Irish Environment are now considering grounds for appeal.
[2] Details of the full report from the Environmental Protection Agency,67153,en.html

20 OCTOBER 2019

Coveney’s post-Brexit commitment on environment and climate welcomed
‘Huge relief’ that EU Environmental Directives will still be the law across the entire island

At the recent ‘Enforcing European Union Environmental Law’ conference at University College Cork, An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney highlighted the specific inclusion of the environment and climate as areas where regulatory alignment is to be required. Citing ‘the extremely complex legal playing field’, the Tánaiste suggested Working Groups will be established to ensure that there is no distortion to competition because of differing regulations. Referring to a ‘pool of sovereignty’, he told the conference ‘The reach of EU law will extend beyond the EU’.

Chaired by The Hon. Ms Justice Marie Baker of the Court of Appeal, the Minister’s appearance was unscheduled.

While acknowledging that there was ‘more knowledge of EU law in this room than any other I’ll stand in this year’, the Tánaiste urged the capacity audience "to get buy-in and bring the people with you’. Enforcement was ‘not just about taking people to Court’, he said. ‘Otherwise you get resistance from people which leads to political resistance. A stick alone will not deliver our desired outcome.’

Confessing to being a ‘Brexit Nerd, as my family will tell you’, Simon Coveney said Brexit negotiations would last for ‘the next ten years’.

Welcoming the Minister’s reference to establishing Working Groups to ensure equivalence in the areas of environment and climate, Friends of the Irish Environment’s Tony Lowes, who attended the Conference, said that the Minister’s words were ‘timely’. ‘The specific requirement to ensure regulatory alignment to maintain a level playing field in the two areas of environment and climate ensures that EU Environmental Directives will still be the law across the entire island and can still be enforced by the European Court of Justice. That is a huge relief.’

‘Enforcing European Union Environmental Law’ was the sixth annual conference at UCC’s School of Law funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the ‘Communicating Europe Initiative’. The conference focused on contemporary enforcement challenges and explored the most significant developments in the recent jurisprudence of the Irish Superior Courts and the Court of Justice of the EU. Attendees included legal practitioners, the judiciary, Government Departments, regulators, local authorities, academics, NGOs, community groups and members of the public.


Verification and comment:
Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Conference Program


14 OCTOBER, 2019


Minister urged to intervene to protect birds from €7m Dursey Island tourism development
Bird Study shows 30% decline in protected choughs

Minister for Arts, Culture, and the Gaeltachta has been asked to intervene on the proposed Dursey Island Cable Car and Visitor Centre Project in west Cork.

Cork County Council in partnership with Fáilte Ireland, have applied to An Bord Pleanala to replace the exiting 6 person cable car taking 10 minutes and construct two new cable cars to Dursey Island capable of carrying 200-300 passengers an hour each way. The project includes an extensive visitor centre on the mainland and the construction of 16 passing bays in the 4 km spur from the main Beara peninsula road and is designed to increase visitors to 80,000 per year.

In a letter to the Minister, the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE], who have their offices in the area, have pointed out that ‘surveys contained in the EIS shows record a 30% decline in Chough numbers since 2003. Scientific studies have established that tourism threatens the choughs.

While the Bird Survey highlights the fact that ‘In late June/early July, family groups were observed to start flocking on the western end of the island, and birds largely stayed around this area from this point onwards. One surveyor reported walking from the eastern to the western end of the island on 02/07/2019, observing no choughs until reaching the western end of the island’ which is the ‘key foraging and flock-forming area’.

A visitor study undertaken shows that this extreme western end of the island is visited by more visitors than any other area (26%) while 42% of visitors leave the path when reaching this area.

Scientific literature shows that breeding choughs forage for up to 300 metres from their nesting sites. Studies have shown that the ‘survival of young was lowest when tourist numbers were greatest because inexperienced birds had trouble finding sufficient food when disturbed frequently’. Yet even by the developer’s minimalistic and unenforceable 50 metre protection zone ‘22% of total foraging area will be lost’.

FIE points out that the target figure of 80,000 visitors is not supported by any studies, although a visitor management plan has been sought since the North and West Cork Strategic Plan 2002 to 2020. ‘While the EIA itself warns of potential dangers to the chough that can not be ruled out, it proposes no prohibition on visitors or other meaningful measures beside signage to protect the bird, as restrictions would be counterproductive as they required most in the peak tourist months of July and August.’

Tony Lowes of FIE says that their organisation is ‘well aware of the stretched staffing and resourcing in the Minister’s National Parks and Wildlife Service and it is for that reason that we have flagged this development with her. We have no doubt that when her staff examines the scientific research and the nature of the development they will determine that exploiting Dursey Island like this will threaten the survival of the chough and set a precedent for future mass tourism in Ireland at the expense of our protected wildlife.’

An Bord Pleanala is accepting submissions on the proposal accompanied by €50 until October 25, 2019.

Tony Lowes: 0872176316
Irish language: David Healy 0876178852
Submission to Minister

Development documentation referred to: