Friends of the Irish Environment - Press Release - Wednesday 18 October, 201
High Court challenge to Dublin Airport extension to conclude. First case to test new climate legalisation
Today is scheduled to be the last day of the challenge to the new runway proposed for Dublin airport.
The new runway, if built, will significantly increase the capacity of Dublin Airport and lead to increases in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In April, Friends of the Irish Environment was granted leave to judicially review
the decision on the basis that it was incompatible with European Union environmental
law and because Fingal County Council had not justified its decision in light of the
National Transition Objective set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon
Development Act 2015.
This case is the first time measures reflecting the State’s commitment to transition
to a low carbon economy by 2050 come before the courts and will be an important test
of the strength of the obligations placed on public bodies to further this
The case also raises the important issue of whether the Constitution recognizes
fundamental environmental rights. Ireland is now an outlier in being one of the few
countries in the world that does not recognize environmental rights at the
The requirement to bring Irish law into agreement with EU law which requires an
Environmental Impact Assessment when renewing permission for major projects like the
airport runway has been promised by the Government but has not yet taken place.
FIE’s challenge further alleges that since the runway was granted permission the
IPCC has demonstrated undeniable scientific consensus on the growing threat of
global warming caused by human activity and yet Ireland has admitted that it will
fall far short of the targets set under the Paris Agreement which will cost the
State substantial fines.
John Kenny BL instructed by FP Logue Solicitors, also submitted that the Irish
Constitution recognized an unenumerated right to a healthy environment. Echoing the
ground-breaking Ryan and McGee cases which first established such unenumerated
right, Mr Kenny quoted Pope Francis’s May 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ in support of
his contention that the ‘philosophical consensus’ supports the ’legal and scientific
consensus that requires climate change be addressed’.
According to the encyclical ‘environmental degradation’ is occurring at ‘an
accelerating pace having a profound effect on us all and on the poor and
disadvantaged, in particular’. Pope Francis warns that ‘we are presently witnessing
a disturbing warming of the climatic system -a ‘common good’ that is ‘belonging to
all and was meant for all’.
Mr Kenny argued that it was not an encyclical which reflected a particular religious
or dogmatic view point. He suggested the Pope’s work was an ‘eloquent and
thought-provoking encapsulation of an emerging philosophical consensus that should
be considered in tandem with what I have described as the jurisprudential consensus
and the scientific consensus.’
A spokesman for Friends of the Irish Environment said that ‘the overwhelming legal,
scientific, and ethical arguments all supports our claim that the State is not doing
enough to address the greatest challenge of our time, entirely ignoring our new
Climate Act and our international commitment to reduce the nation’s carbon
The case is due to conclude today after 10 days before Justice Barrett.
Contacts and interviews:
Sadhbh O’Neill 353 (0)87 2258599
Irish Language: Daithí Ó hÉalaithe +353 (0) 87 6178852
Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74 771 / 353 (0)87 2176316