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Dublin Airport second runway dispute: State argues there is no 'right to an environment' in Constitution

Friends of the Irish Environment claim the proposed runway will lead to increases in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed new runway.
The proposed new runway.
Image: DAA

LAWYERS FOR THE State have told the High Court that there is no “unenumerated right to an environment” contained the Irish Constitution.

The state was responding to claims contained in an environmental group’s challenge to a decision to extend the length of planning permission granted to the DAA to construct a second runway at Dublin Airport.

In proceedings against Fingal County Council and the State, Friends of the Irish Environment claim the proposed runway will lead to increases in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A part of its action it claims there is a constitutional right to life, bodily integrity, water, and health derived from an environment consistent with human dignity and well-being.

The group – represented by John Kenny Bl instructed by solicitor Fred Logue – say the proposed runway will lead to an increase in the pace of climate change and will impact on those rights.

In submissions on behalf of the State, Ciaran Toland SC said that there was no unenumerated right to an environment contained in the constitution.

Environmental policy was a matter for the Oireachtais and the government.

Counsel said the group’s claim that a legal right to an environment exists in 177 other countries was speculative.

Right implied

Any suggestion that that a right to an environment can be implied into the Irish constitution on the basis of an international consensus, when the European Court of Human Rights does not contain such a right, was misconceived.

The group’s action is the third of three actions challenging Fingal Council’s decision to extend by five years planning permission allowing DAA construct the runway.

DAA wants to build a new €320m, 3,110 metre runway, located on townlands north and north west of the airport terminal building as part of its plans to turn the airport into an international hub.

The action brought by environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment is against Fingal County Council as well as the State.

Dublin Airport Authority plc and Ryanair are notice parties.

The environmental group’s action has been brought on grounds including that the decision to extend planning permission is not in compliance with various EU directives.

These include the Habitats Directive as well as the 2000 Planning and Development Act and is unlawful.

It also claims 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.

The group has also raised a point in relation to the Constitutional recognition of environmental rights.

Other challenges

A second challenge against Fingal County Council’s decision has been brought by 22 individual residents – most with addresses at Kilreesk Lane, St Margaret’s, Co Dublin.

They claim the development is illegal on grounds including that Fingal County Council failed to consider or address their concerns about its effect on their homes and lands.

It is also their case that an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment of the possible impact the proposed development could have on the residents should have been carried out before the decision to extend the planning permission was granted.

The respondents and notice parties have opposed both actions.

The hearing of those two cases before Mr Justice Max Barrett continue.

The court has already reserved its decision in a third challenge brought by the St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group against the DAA.

In those proceedings group claims certain pre-construction works carried out by DAA in December 2016 on the proposed new runway amounts to unauthorised development.

It is claimed that the works were done before a waste management plan by the DAA was submitted to Fingal County Council breaches a condition of the original planning permission.

DAA denies the claim.

Read: “The planes fly right over our houses now, it didn’t used to be like this” – Living at the edge of Dublin Airport

Read: Residents group launch legal challenge over new Dublin Airport runway

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Aodhan O Faolain

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