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Failure to bring in code hindering Corrib dispute

Lorna Siggins, The Irish Times

Ireland’s failure to fully implement the Aarhus convention on access to environmental information is hindering its handling of the Corrib gas dispute, a human right specialist has said.

Sr Majella McCarron of the Table human rights monitoring group says the right to fair trial has been breached in recent court proceedings relating to the dispute.

She was commenting on the publication of her group’s new report on the situation in north Mayo – the second such report it has compiled on Corrib.

Sr McCarron said if the convention was fully implemented, people would not have to protest and risk arrest to highlight a lack of information on authorisations for various works.

Ireland is the only country in Europe not to have fully implemented the convention, in spite of a Green Party commitment to do so. The convention permits public access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters.

The Department of Environment has said the convention’s implementation has been delayed by further consultation with government departments, on the advice of the Attorney General.

Table was initiated in the 1990s under the auspices of Action from Ireland (Afri) and was involved in monitoring of parades in the North. It also observed related court cases. The group is voluntary and works under United Nations and European Convention on Human Rights guidelines.

Last year, the group produced a report on protests at the Corrib gas landfall in Glengad in late June. This year it focused on the experience of 27 defendants at a special court sitting for Corrib gas protest cases in March.

The 27 people included 10 residents, 12 Shell to Sea activists or supporters and three members of the Rossport Solidarity Camp. They appeared on various charges, including breach of public order to trespass and removal of netting placed by the developers to stop birds nesting at Glengad.

One prison sentence and one fine were imposed, but 21 cases were withdrawn by the State with no reason given and four cases were dismissed. At the time, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins expressed concern about the lack of a right to a fair trial, given that seven of those on trial had sought to protect bird life under EU directives.

Monday, May 31, 2010