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EIA Directive 'does not apply' to super prison

category dublin | environment | press release author Monday February 06, 2006 16:19author by resident

EU Environment Commissioner Tells De Rossa - Government Said EU Enviroment Law Does Not Apply to Proposed North Country Prison at October 2005 Dublin meeting

EU Environment Commissioner Tells De Rossa - Government Said EU Enviroment Law Does Not Apply to Proposed North Country Prison at October 2005 Dublin meeting

Statement by Proinsias De Rossa MEP

6th February 2005

Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa has been informed by the EU's Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, that at a meeting between his officials in Dublin last October, Government officials 'were of the view' that the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, which provides for the "environmental-screening" of major projects before they are executed, does not apply to the plans to build a prison at Kilsallaghan in north county Dublin.

Commissioner Stavros was answering on 31 January the most recent question tabled by Mr De Rossa on this issue in the European Parliament (see below). The Commissioner said he was still examining the issue and was unable to say when the Commission would decide what action to take.

"I am disappointed but not surprised at the Government's stance as now revealed by the Commission" Mr De Rossa said.

"The Minister for the Environment Dick Roche is once again taking a very minimalist approach to the application of EC environment law. He seems to be arguing that if prison is not specifically mentioned in the EIA directive, an environmental impact assessment does not have to be carried out on this particular project.

"The EIA Directive however is far from an exhaustive list of projects that should be subject either to a mandatory or optional environmental impact assessment. For example, it provides for optional environmental impact assessments on major road projects and car parks (Annex II, (10)). The Kilsallaghan project would clearly entail such developments.

"Furthermore, there is nothing in the EIA Directive that actually prevents the Government from carrying out an environmental impact assessment of the prison proposal.

"Under the Directive, if the proposal was to build a hotel or even a caravan park at Kilsallaghan, an environmental impact assessment could be required (Annex II (12)). But nothing for a prison, according to Ministers Roche and McDowell.

"I believe the reason the Government does not want to carry out an environmental impact assessment of this project is that if one were carried out, it would conclude that on environmental reasons alone, the project should not go ahead.

Mr De Rossa said that the Government should now, in the public interest, make public the line of argument it made with the Commission last October.

Mr De Rossa added that he understand that the Kilsallaghan issue arose at one of the regular so-called "package" meetings that takes place between the Commission and Government officials to discuss Ireland's overall compliance with EC environmental law. Other issues raised at this meeting included the proposed Tara motorway and the failure to clean-up wetlands at the Boyne estuary.

ENDS - For further information, contact Proinsias De Rossa at 01.8746109.

Please find below the text of Proinsias De Rossa's question and the Commission's answer.

WRITTEN QUESTION E-4978/05 by Proinsias De Rossa (PSE) to the Commission

Subject: Proposal to build a prison in north Dublin

Further to its answer to my written question E-3003/05 concerning the proposal to build a prison in a rural area of north County Dublin, could the Commission indicate if it has now reached any decisions in this matter and, if so, what they are? If not, could it indicate when it might be in a position to do so?

Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission (31.1.2006)

The issue referred to has been looked at by the Commission insofar as it concerns provisions of Irish planning legislation whereby projects for the construction of prisons and certain other public buildings do not need to undergo the normal development consent procedure, and, as a corollary, do not need to respect requirements regarding environmental impact assessment. The Commission can confirm that, at a package meeting held in Dublin in October 2005, it discussed these legislative provisions with the Irish authorities. The Irish authorities were of the view that the provisions in question did not contravene the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive[1]. The Commission is not in a position to indicate when it will take a decision on the matter.

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