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Historic decision establishes constitutional right to environmental protection

category national | crime and justice | press release author Tuesday November 21, 2017 22:31author by fie - Friends of Irish Environment

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment - Tues 21st Nov 2017

Today the High Court delivered its judgment in the case of Friends of the Irish Environment vs. Fingal County Council.

While dismissing FIE’s challenge to a decision to give Dublin Airport Authority more time to build a third runway at Dublin Airport, the court nevertheless recognised for the first time a constitutional right to environmental protection “that is consistent with the human dignity and well-being of citizens at large’”.

This is the first new constitutional right to be recognised in several decades.

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Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment - Tues 21st Nov 2017
Today the High Court delivered its judgment in the case of Friends of the Irish Environment vs. Fingal County Council.

While dismissing FIE’s challenge to a decision to give Dublin Airport Authority more time to build a third runway at Dublin Airport, the court nevertheless recognised for the first time a constitutional right to environmental protection “that is consistent with the human dignity and well-being of citizens at large’”.

This is the first new constitutional right to be recognised in several decades.

According to a spokesperson for FIE: “ The judgement is timely in light of the unprecedented threats to the environment and human life posed by climate change. We expect this decision to have profound implications beyond the scope of this case. The state now has a duty to protect the environment in a way that is consistent with this newly established right.”

In his lengthy judgement, Mr Justice Barrett said (para 264)

“A right to an environment that is consistent with the human dignity and well-being of citizens at large is an essential condition for the fulfilment of all human rights. It is an indispensable existential right that is enjoyed universally, yet which is vested personally as a right that presents and can be seen always to have presented, and to enjoy protection, under Art. 40.3.1 of the Constitution. It is not so utopian a right that it can never be enforced.

The judgement continues

“Concrete duties and responsibilities will fall in time to be defined and demarcated. But to start down that path of definition and demarcation, one first has to recognise that there is a personal constitutional right to an environment that is consistent with the human dignity and well-being of citizens at large and upon which those duties and responsibilities will be constructed. This the court does.”

In his reasoning, Mr Justice Barrett acknowledged the universality of environmental rights in religious and secular thought. He emphasised urgency in the context of the present environmental crisis noting the

‘[..] greater public awareness that the quality of our life as a nation, and as members of the wider human community, is threatened by the processes which have yielded the very quality of life which we presently enjoy’.

FIE is consulting with its legal team to consider an appeal in relation to the narrow points of law on which the case was dismissed but strongly welcomes today’s ground-breaking decision of the High Court.

ENDS

Further information and interviews:

Fred Logue of FP Logue Solicitors 087 131 6023

Sadhbh O Neill Friends of the Irish Environment 087 2258599

Related Link: http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17468-historic-decision-establishes-constitutional-right-to-environmen...ction

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