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Plans for 30 homes in Meath Gaeltacht quashed over concerns about use of Irish language

Conradh na Gaeilge said the ruling is an important victory that will inspire the whole Gaeltacht community.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE HIGH COURT has quashed a planning permission granted for 30 houses and a guesthouse in the Ráth Chairn Gaeltacht in Co Meath.

Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon quashed the decision on grounds that she was not satisfied that the proposed development complied with requirements to show that it would enhance the use of the Irish language in the area.

The action was brought against An Bord Pleanála’s June 2020 permission for the planned development, on a site between the local primary school and community centre.

The challenge was brought Comharchumann Ráth Chairn, a local development co-operative charged with implementing a language plan to increase the amount of Irish in the area, had challenged the decision.

Seamás Ó Tuathail SC, with Dáithí MacCárthaigh BL, instructed by Colm McGeehin, of Prospect Law solicitors for the co-operative claimed the board had erred in not holding that a language impact statement (LIS) submitted on behalf of the developer, Colm Griffin, from Ráth Chairn, was inadequate.

The author of the LIS had no qualifications in language planning or social linguistics and the LIS is inadequate for reasons including it underestimated the numbers who speak Irish in the locality, it was claimed.

A planning condition that 70% of the 30 houses be provided for Irish speakers “unless otherwise agreed by the developer and the Council” amounted to an unauthorised delegation of the Board’s powers, it was also claimed.

It was further alleged that the rights of the applicant as a linguistic minority have been violated, particularly the right not to be assimilated.

The board denied the claims and had opposed the group’s action.

In her judgement, the judge said that she was satisfied to make an order quashing the decision.

The judge said she was not sataisfied that an analysis carried out by a planning consultant on behalf of the developer was sufficient to clearly show that the proposed development would enhance the use of the Irish language in the Co Meath Gaeltacht.

Proposed developments in Gaeltacht areas are required under national and local planning requirements to show that they must increase the use of the Irish language, the court added.

However in this case the court was not satisfied that it had been proven that the proposed development would comply such requirements contained in the County Meath Development plan in regards to the Ráth Chairn area.

The judge also awarded the applicants their legal costs of the action.

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Conradh na Gaeilge congratulated Comharchumann Ráth Cairn, its legal team and the wider community for their victory in the High Court.

The Irish-speaking group said it was an important ruling that will inspire the whole Gaeltacht community.

Conradh na Gaeilge president Niall Comer said: “This whole process highlights the weaknesses of the planning system in relation to the protection of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht.

“No Gaeltacht community should have to rely on the courts to protect its future as a Gaeltacht community.

“It is clear, as demanded by Conradh na Gaeilge and the Gaeltacht communities, that there is a need to develop a national policy for housing planning in the Gaeltacht, a policy aimed at ensuring that housing planning in the Gaeltacht is focused entirely on sustaining and strengthening communities of the Gaeltacht.”

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Aodhan O Faolain

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