Gormley ponders European Commission proceedings as Green’s elect him leader

The Irish government Minister for the Environment John Gormley is, as far as I can tell, still to respond to the European Commission which, it’s reported [subs req], has taken infringement proceedings “in relation to the decision to preserve by record the ancient site at Lismullin.” The Irish Times report notes that “Ireland is the subject of 33 investigations by the commission into infringements of EU directives ranging from water pollution to the habitats directive and birds directive.” He described the meeting on Friday 13th July as “a long and frank exchange of views”. On a happier note for the Minister, he’s just been elected as the new leader of the Green Party, with 478 votes from the 775 party members who voted.From the Irish Times on Saturday 14th July

Mr Gormley said he had a “very useful and productive” meeting with Commissioner Dimas yesterday[Friday 13th July], a meeting which Mr Gormley requested to deal with numerous issues.

“I explained to him my concern and my willingness to resolve our problems particularly under the habitats and birds directives,” he said. “I have asked for a road map on how we can best avoid and deal with infringement proceedings going forward.”

The pair also discussed the controversial decision to go ahead with the M3 motorway through Lismullin in Co Meath. The EU Commission has taken infringement proceedings against the Government in relation to the decision to preserve by record the ancient site at Lismullin. It wants the Government to amend the 2004 National Monuments Act to include environmental impact assessments (EIAs) whenever a site of potential archaeological worth is discovered along the route. At present EIAs are only carried out before projects are begun.

Mr Gormley said: “The issues associated with Ireland’s implementation of the EIA directive are complex and have been ongoing for a number of years and Lismullin has recently been cited in the additional opinion. This matter requires full and detailed consideration and we will be responding to the commission as quickly as possible.”

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  • Frank Sinistra

    Pete,

    Any idea how many Commission investigations the Assembly is facing? Admittedly any they are facing are unlikely to be due to issues that happened on their watch (like the one I can think of offhand though current civil servants will definitely have been involved).

  • Pete Baker

    Frank

    I feel certain you have an argument as to why European Commission investigations into breaches of environmental directives by other administrations would be relevant to the newly elected leader of the Green Party.. and yet..

  • Frank Sinistra

    Pete,

    Sorry, no ulterior motive. Just thought you might have come across the stat. Slugger has sent you paranoid.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Should have put this at the end of my last sentence ;0)

  • Pete Baker

    “Just thought you might have come across the stat.”

    And strangely I was expecting comments on the actual topic rather than enquiries on something else.

    You’ll just have to excuse my suggestion that the topic had been missed.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Well it does kind of fall into the broader picture of a recently appointed Minister not previously in government being made to account for failings that didn’t occur on their watch.

    For those of us living in the north it opens up strange questions, how will our Ministers answer to Commission investigations for things that happened before they took power and even more bizarrely in our case will the Assembly be held to account or will sanction be directed at the official Member state – the British Government.

    The normal outcome for failing to implement Directives is a large fine for every day of non-compliance or a ECJ sanction if rectification is no longer possible. That’s what Gormley and the Irish government face. In our case the breaches will probably result in sanction against Westminster.

  • OnTheTurn

    “I feel certain you have an argument as to why European Commission investigations into breaches of environmental directives by other administrations”

    C’mon Pete – “other adminstrations” – on this site??
    It’s not like Frank was asking about the number of investigations being faced by Latvia.

  • Frank Sinistra

    The report for the last full period on infringements, 2005, is here

    Notable that many of the investigations are initiated by people making representations via the European Parliament Petitions Committee. Good stuff seeing people using the Parliament to force their Governments to comply with Environmental legislation.

    Ireland(8) does worse than the UK(4) for non-communication infringements (not writing a directive into local legislation in time) but as the Commission notes:

    “In 89% of these cases, closure was the result of remedial action taken by Member States following the identification of a violation of EU environmental law by the Commission.”

    The UK(10) does worse than Ireland(7) on non-conformity infringements, the local legislation not reflecting the European Directive.

    Ireland(30) does much worse than the UK(17) on bad application infringements.

    Ireland faced 9 section 228 case to the UK’s 6 (cases taken to the European Court of Justice)

    Only one specific mention of northern ireland in the overall UK breaches:

    “The EIA Directive26 is an important part of EU environmental legislation. This Directive
    requires certain types of projects to be assessed for their impact before they are approved, in
    order to avoid or minimise environmental damage and nuisances. The projects covered by the
    Directive are identified in the Annexes to the Directive. Amendments to the EIA Directive
    were adopted in 199727 and 200328.
    In 2005, the Commission sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice under Article 228
    EC for not complying with a 2004 Court judgment condemning the UK for incomplete
    transposition of the EIA Directive as regards Scotland and Northern Ireland (Case C-421/02).”

  • Frank Sinistra

    And the report would seem to confirm while the Assembly will have responsibility for transposing the European directives into local legislation the British government will face the sanctions for failure to do so.

  • Frank Sinistra

    Pete,

    The infringement proceedings may have a certain element of misreporting, see the NRA press release. The infringement relates to the overall compatibility of the National Monuments Act, 2004 with the directive and though the Lismullin site is subsequently used as an example the infringement procedure was not initiated due to it. The Irish response is due within two months.

    The information came to light as a result of a Question to the Commission from Kathy Sinnott MEP:

    I would like to know the current position of the Commission in relation
    to the road construction work in the area of the Hill of Tara, Co Meath,
    Ireland, and the general issue of the proposed route for the M3.
    Could you also please briefly sketch the history of the Commission’s
    position and its interaction with the Irish authorities?

    Answer from the Commission 10th July 2007
    The Commission is only in a position to intervene in a matter of this
    kind if there is some procedural flaw.
    The Commission received a significant number of complaints about the
    environmental impact assessment (EIA) undertaken for the M3 motorway
    project in 2003 but, based on the evidence received, was unable to
    identify any such flaw up to and including the Planning Appeals Board
    2003 decision.
    However, in a quite separate case, the European Court of Justice has
    recognised that decisions to approve projects may unfold in more than
    one stage and that it may be inappropriate to limit the possibility of
    EIA to an early stage as new circumstances and new factors may arise at
    the time of a second-stage decision.
    In June our attention was drawn to a new decision relating to the M3
    project – namely the decision under the National Monuments Act, 2004 to
    allow the demolition of the Lismullin national monument, which had been
    discovered in 2007 and was unknown at the time of the original EIA. Our
    attention was also drawn to the fact that the National Monuments Act
    made no provision for the possible need for an EIA in respect of such a
    decision.
    As it happened, the Commission already had an infringement procedure
    open against Ireland for excluding demolition works from the scope of
    its implementation of the EIA Directive, 85/337/EEC on the assessment of
    the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.
    On 29 June 2007, the Commission notified a Reasoned Opinion (final
    warning) to Ireland in relation to the demolition issue. By way of
    illustration of what the exclusion can mean in practice, the Reasoned
    Opinion mentions Lismullin (which was not specifically mentioned
    previously, as it only emerged as an issue in June of this year). It
    also raises the issue of the compatibility of the National Monuments
    Act, 2004 with the Directive and takes note of the World Monument Fund
    listing that you mention.
    When the EIA was undertaken for the M3 in 2003, the assessment was on
    the basis that no national monument lay in the path of the road. The
    discovery and identification of Lismullin as a national monument in 2007
    represents a circumstance that was not – and could not – have been taken
    into account at the time of the (first-stage) EIA. However, the National
    Monuments Act, 2004 makes no provision for (second-stage) EIA in
    relation to decisions allowing for destruction of national monuments
    that were unknown at the time of a first-stage EIA.
    A response is not expected for two months.
    I hope that this clarifies the matter for you.

    That took ages to find due to the crapness of EU websites.

  • Dewi

    775 people voting in a leadership election doesn’t sound a lot. Not OMOV for the Greens ?

  • Frank Sinistra

    Dewi,

    According to RTE that was 60% of those entitled to vote. It was OMOV and members north and south were able to vote.

  • Dewi

    Which means that the Green party has 1,300 members ??? That’s not a lot.

  • I find it distastefull that the Greens campaigned as a party of change that could make a difference and now that they’re not as powerful as they thought they were going to be, they’re letting shit like this go while holding the brief for the Enviroment. I know it’s a coalition but damn i think they sold out. And I was really impressed by Gromley during the election (that thing with Mcdowell was awesome).