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category national | rights, freedoms and repression | press release author Monday June 29, 2020 23:28author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 29th June 2020

Legal Aid Board refusal to fund environmental NGO faces High Court challenge
Irish legal costs ‘prohibitively expensive’

The High Court will tomorrow [June 30] hear a two-day challenge to the Legal Aid Board’s refusal to provide legal aid to the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE].

The NGO sought the funding in April of 2018 to support its Judicial Review of the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework. This case alleges that the Government of Ireland erred in law in failing to adequately fulfil its obligations under the Strategic Environmental Assessment and the Habitats Directive when approving the plans.

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 29th June 2020

Legal Aid Board refusal to fund environmental NGO faces High Court challenge

Irish legal costs ‘prohibitively expensive’

The High Court will tomorrow [June 30] hear a two-day challenge to the Legal Aid Board’s refusal to provide legal aid to the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE].

The NGO sought the funding in April of 2018 to support its Judicial Review of the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework. This case alleges that the Government of Ireland erred in law in failing to adequately fulfil its obligations under the Strategic Environmental Assessment and the Habitats Directive when approving the plans.

The Legal Aid Board ruled that FIE was acting on behalf of third parties and that its aid is only available to individuals and not companies.

FIE was established in 1997 and is a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Registered Charity. It has brought a number of legal actions to protect the environment. In its challenge, FIE’s cites the Irish Interpretation Act 2005, which states that the word ‘person’ shall be ‘read as importing a body corporate as well as an individual’.

The group argues that

  • The Irish Constitution gives a right to access the courts, claiming that this right is ‘abridged’ as it cannot ‘effectively, as effectively, or at all progress its proceedings in circumstances where it is not in a position to pay its lawyers’.
  • The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which provides specifically that ‘legal aid is to be made available to those who lack sufficient resources in so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice’.
  • The Aarhus convention, which has been ratified by Ireland, which requires members to ‘consider the establishment of appropriate assistance mechanisms to remove or reduce financial and other barriers to access to justice.’

According to FIE Director Tony Lowes, ‘We continue to seek Civil Legal Aid to allow to us to present important cases like our challenge to the National Development Plan with some semblance of equality of arms between ourselves and the Government of Ireland.

‘When decisions are challenged the State and other public bodies have virtually unlimited resources to engage lawyers and consultants, putting a challenger who seeks to rely on our Courts at a significant disadvantage. The case is fundamental not only to the rights of NGOs but any group of citizens defending their own environment to whom Court costs are prohibitively expensive and so act as a barrier to access to Justice.’

FIE is represented by Fred Logue, Solicitor, John Kenny, BL, & Patrick Leonard, SC


Contacts:
COMMENT:
Fred Logue 087 1316023 (solicitor)
Tony Lowes 087 2176316
Irish language: David Healy 087 6178852

Related Link: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17826-legal-aid-board-refusal-to-fund-environmental-ngo-faces-high-court-challenge
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