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Transparency group in court battle to gain access to more Cabinet climate change docs

Right to Know are seeking access to more documents on what has been said about climate change at the Cabinet table.

File photo. Ireland has not been meeting its emissions targets.
File photo. Ireland has not been meeting its emissions targets.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

A GROUP CAMPAIGNING for greater transparency in what public authorities tell the public has initiated Judicial Review proceedings against the Taoiseach in a bid to have more information on Cabinet discussions about climate change released.

Right to Know was already successful in the High Court in June of this year in their bid to overturn the government’s refusal to disclose documents around what was said in Cabinet about greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Department of An Taoiseach did indeed hand over a number of documents to Right to Know – a group that includes a number of journalists – in the months following this ruling.

But due to the “limited amount of information” released, according to the group, it is initiating a Judicial Review in a bid to access more information on what the government is saying about climate change behind the closed doors of Cabinet.

The case first arose in 2016, when Right to Know sought to access this information under Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations.

Group member and solicitor Fred Logue told TheJournal.ie that there is a public interest in finding out what the Cabinet is saying regarding Ireland’s emissions and climate change.

“Ireland has a very strong tradition of Cabinet confidentiality,” he said, pointing to an amendment made to the Constitution in the mid-1990s. “This is the first time anyone has been granted access to this information.

Climate change is a defining issue of our time. We haven’t much time left to fix it.

This comes against the context of Ireland well on course to fall far short of its 2020, 2030 and 2050 climate change targets.

In a scathing annual report earlier this year, the State’s climate change watchdog said Ireland is now in an “even worse position” than last year as greenhouse gas emissions increased again.

Instead of dropping by one million tonnes per year emissions are in fact increasing at a rate of two million tonnes per year, the report found.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment described the projections as “deeply disappointing”.

In her decision earlier this year in the Right to Know case, Ms Justice Mary Faherty said within EU directives applying in Irish law there was a “fundamental right of access to environmental information”. 

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In a blog post on the Right to Know website following this ruling, member Gavin Sheridan said: “We believe this to be a significant victory for access to information rights generally, and for the applicability of EU law when there is conflict with national law, including the Constitution.

The public has a right to know how our Cabinet is discussing Climate Change, and what measures are being taken to mitigate its effects. We also should know if what is being said at Cabinet reflects what is being said in public.

Although roughly 30 records originating since 2002 were granted to Right to Know following the summer High Court decision, they are seeking far more details concerning the remarks and statements by ministers regarding climate change in Cabinet since that time. 

The Judicial Review is set to be heard early in the new year.

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With reporting from Céimin Burke

About the author:

Sean Murray

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