The Judicial Review granted last year by the High Court challenging a windfarm near Donald Trump’s Doonbeg Golf Resort is to be fast-tracked after Mr Justice McGovern made an order admitting the matter into the Commercial Court last week.


The application had been refused by Clare County Council to protect the freshwater pearl mussel and this refusal was commended to the Board by its Inspector. However, the Board rejected the Council’s decision to refuse and the Inspector’s recommendations and gave permission for the development.


In an affidavit provided to support the application to the Commercial Court the operator, Clare Wind Farms Ltd, said the case must be dealt with ‘as a matter of urgency’ as it is ‘fundamental’ and of ‘critical importance to its commercial viability’. The developer claims that the business case for the windfarm relies upon supports of the government backed REFIT II scheme which requires planning permission to be in place by 1 January 2018.


The challenge is being brought by Friends of the Irish Environment, whose first objection against the original 44-turbine development was lodged in 2011 and upheld by the Board after an oral hearing in 2015. The most recent application for an additional 12-turbines was also refused by the Council but granted by the Board in October 2016. FIE’s Judicial Review supports the Council and the Board’s Inspector’s arguments that there was no certainty that fresh water pearl mussel would not be adversely impacted by the development.


In an affidavit Dr. Evelyn Moorkens, the NPWS expert on the fresh water pearl mussel and the validator of the national database of non-marine molluscs for Ireland, points out that the assessment of the mussels in the local area was insufficient and that the ground for permitting the use for the first time of a chemical compound to prevent the excavated soil from polluting the water poses in itself a threat to the fresh water pearl mussel.


The expert pointed out that not using chemical dosing to prevent the disturbed soil flowing into the river with ‘siltbusters’ or other coagulants has been a ‘mainstay of accepted mitigation practice’. She outlined that these products are ‘usually metals that are highly toxic to the fresh water pearl mussel and can travel many hundreds of kilometres in large European rivers, yet the Board have certainty that they will not travel down a few kilometres to the site of mussels.’


Clare County Council gave a further reason for refusing the application as the impact the wind farm would have on the view from the Trump development.


US President and owner of the Doonbeg resort Donald Trump called FIE shortly after he purchased the property in 2014 offering his assistance in FIE’s opposition to the wind farm. Trump had recently abandoned plans for extending his Scottish golf resort because of off-shore wind farm developments, which he opposes as ‘environmentally irresponsible’ and a ‘blight on the landscape’. The organisation refused the offer.




Verification: Tony Lowes 087 2176316



It is for their rivers and their lakes “fair jumping with salmon” that playwright Frank Mc Guinness’s Ulstermen charge to their death in the Battle of the Somme.

In his play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, revived for 2016 in theatres in Dublin and Belfast and London, he located his Ulstermen going into their tragic battle as natives of this beautiful island, springing from its soil and sustained by its waters.

This was a huge and important imaginative leap for a playwright who grew up on the border during the Troubles, in a Catholic, nationalist tradition which explicitly rejected the Protestant tradition as an invasive species.

Why does this memory keep recurring as we prepare to leave 2016 behind? Because the most unlikely outcome of this year of remembrance is that a United Ireland is back on the agenda. And for me it is back on the agenda because we live on a small island and nature knows no borders.

Arts offered authentic retrospection, unlike State, media, and academia

People are talking of “hard” and “soft” borders but few seem concerned at the possible impact of Brexit on Ireland’s environment. There is next to no environmental law which does not originate in the EU.

As Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment says, without EU environmental law “We are the emperor with no clothes”. And he points to the interesting fact that Northern unionists may have fiercely rejected union with the South but have not rejected being ruled by EU law.

With Northern Ireland out of the EU the Assembly will not have to translate EU directives into national law. They can even take out the bits that are in there.

This would impact implementation of the Water Framework Directive which protects our freshwater systems and the Habitats Directive which protects our biodiversity on this side of the border. In some cases and in some places it would make implementation impossible.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew says the implications of Brexit for the North’s environment have made some steadfast unionist Greens, who even campaigned against the Greens becoming an all-Ireland party in 2004, call for a United Ireland.

Coming himself from a strong loyalist community, he says he experienced the Brexit vote as a body blow. With the leaders of Alliance, Sinn Fein and the SDLP he has taken a case, which is being considered by the UK Supreme Court, that triggering Article 50 to leave the EU is inconsistent with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Control in an independent state in the context of the international environmental challenge is a nonsense”, he says.

Because Northern Ireland’s environmental law is completely devolved and he worries where a DUP-led administration will lead when it comes to the environment: “Sammy Wilson’s attitude is we are responsible for 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, we can do whatever we like”, he says.

Every time the North backs out of a commitment under EU environmental legislation the whole island will be impacted. Agnew points to the implications for water quality of the Assembly vote to stop installing water metres in new houses.

We are as bad ourselves, of course. The Republic’s implementation of the Water Framework and Habitats Directives has been so poor that in many cases the directives might as well not have been there.

But they are there. That is important. The directives and our EU commitments on climate change are the only hopes we have that this island can ever be prosperous, peaceful, clean and green.

The truth is that even if there is no “hard” border for people there will be a renewed attempt to draw a “hard” border for natural resources. There has been a dispute between North and South about the ownership of the waters of Loughs Foyle and Carlingford, for instance.

After the Good Friday Agreement it was kicked to touch by way of the Loughs Agency. But the Brexit vote was barely in before the new secretary of state of Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire was claiming that all of Lough Foyle was in the UK.

Louth county councillor Mark Dearey (GP) thinks it’s quite possible the UK will attempt to claim Carlingford Lough as well as there is dispute as to where the high water mark is and what it means for control of the lough.

He paints a compelling picture of how interconnected our natural resources are along the border: “Three-quarters of Co Louth is in the Neagh/Bann River Basin. The River Fane rises in Monaghan, flows to Armagh, it is the border for seven miles before ending up in Co Louth where it supplies 40,000 people with their drinking water.”

There is already evidence of diesel-laundering going on along the border and affecting water quality to the point that it is explicitly monitored before the water reaches the taps. Dearey accepts the EU water directive is not working as it should.

But he says Brexit threatens every shred of regulation protecting natural resources in border counties. As an example he mentions the “toothless” Loughs Agency and says mussel dredging is still happening in Carlingford Lough where bird life is being affected.

But having an agency which could potentially co-ordinate North and South to protect the Lough is far better than having none.

The possible implications of Brexit for the natural environment of this divided island go on and on. Dearey questions whether Northern farmers will continue to accept an intervention price for their beef, for instance.

Will there be pressure on them to compete globally by using growth hormones and how could the South protect its food chain?

Brokenshire has already said the UK will withdraw from the EU Common Fisheries Policy and it is policy which few environmentally-minded people can support.

But what fair and sustainable fishing policy is possible in our waters if UK fishermen are not part of it? The fish don’t observe any borders and rising water temperatures are changing their migratory habits.

Who and how will disputes between Irish and UK fisherfolk we resolved if the UK does not recognise the European Court of Justice?

I’m writing this from the north-western tip of the island. We drove from Dublin to get here, skirting the Donegal village in which my mother grew up unionist and Google reveals a relation drilling with Carson’s UVF to keep Ulster in the UK.

I’m no unionist but still, as a committed European and a pacifist, I never thought I would find myself writing in favour of renewing the discussion around uniting the island.

But I do so now and I do so here. Not because “Only our rivers run free”. But because free is the only way rivers know how to run.


Irish Examiner

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Victoria White




As the Irish Planning Appeals Board gives the Edenderry peat powered generation station another 7 years, the environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] called on the Government to end the current ‘legal chaos’ over the industrial extraction of peat which they say is being exploited by both Irish and foreign companies. The group commissioned a satellite survey of exposed peatland in 2010 which revealed thousands of hectares of previously unrecorded extraction across the raised bogs of the midlands.


The survey was confirmed by a Department of Environment initiated ground truthing conducted by 20 local authorities in 2013.


FIE has recently published an interactive map of the extent of the extraction [1] and a Report on the progress of their campaign [2]. According to the Report, An Bord Pleanala’s determination in 2014 that planning permission was required for these industrial operations led to a Government decision that peat extraction was to be exempted from planning control. Briefing documents supplied to the producers, the European Commission and to FIE by the Department explain that the planning acts are to be revised and only a licence from the EPA will be required in future.


‘For two years, each time the producers’ challenges to the Appeal Board’s decision to require planning permission comes before the High Court, the Companies involved are given further stays as the State says new legislation is being prepared’, FIE Director Tony Lowes said. ‘Thousands of hectares of raised bogs are being exploited year after year without either planning permission or industrial licensing because the current Government will not address this legal limbo.’


The group has recently begun 8 further challenges to large scale extraction operations, including Bord an Mona, Irish, and foreign companies.


‘Our map reveals hundreds of sites, some of them well over 100 hectares in extent, under current industrial extraction. Ironically, preserving our peatlands is the low-hanging fruit for climate change credits. The environmental  impacts are profound, clogging up our river systems with a knock-on effect on fish stocks and wildlife, let alone the increase in downstream flooding. Even more critically, extraction without the necessary controls means organic matter reacts to chlorine in our drinking water, leading to the production of health-threatening trihalomethanes, now affecting over a million consumers of Irish Water.’ [3]


‘Today’s decision does nothing to clarify the legal chaos of industrial extraction’, Mr. Lowes concluded.


Further Information: Tony Lowes

353 (0) 2774771 / 353 (0)87 2176316






[3] According to information provided to the European Commission in 2015 by the Irish authorities and quoted in correspondence from the Commission to FIE, 425,000 households are consuming water over the WHO/EU recommended limit. While this figure has been recently reduced, it remains twice the next highest records in the EU-27.



An Taisce had challenged decision to give company permission to keep station going


Bord na Móna has been given permission to continue operating a power plant in Edenderry, Co Offaly until 2023.

Bord na Móna has been given permission to continue operating a power plant in Edenderry, Co Offaly until 2023.

The semi-state company was originally given clearance by An Bord Pleanala to continue using the plant, which burns peat and biomass, last year.

However, heritage group An Taisce challenged the decision in the High Court in October 2015 and secured a court order in overturning the decision.

An Taisce argued that the environmental impact of peat harvesting for use as a fuel source was not properly assessed in line with an EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

A stay on the ruling was granted until April 2016, with the High Court granting a final stay in October this year.

If An Bord Pleanala had not granted new planning permission by the end of 2016, the plant in Clonbollogue would have had to have been decommissioned by February.

Siptu warned that the closure of the plant, which provides about 2.5 per cent of the State’s annual power needs, would lead to the loss of almost 300 jobs.

Bord na Móna welcomed the decision and said it aimed to cease production of peat for electricity generation by 2030. This approach would allow the company to maintain significant employment in the midlands while also becoming more environmentally and financially sustainable, it added.

Ian Lumley of An Taisce said An Bord Pleanála’s “unfortunate” decision failed to show how it assessed the environmental impact of peat extraction.

It was “irreconcilable” with meeting the State’s EU emissions targets and reductions expected under the Paris climate change agreement.

“Burning peat produces more CO2 than coal and has the secondary effect of digging up the most significant store of greenhouse gases in the country.”

Tony Lowes, of the Friends of the Irish Environment, said there was “legal chaos” when it came to the laws governing industrial peat extraction. He urged the Government to finalise new legislation around the practise.


Fri, Dec 23, 2016, 10:49 Updated: Fri, Dec 23, 2016, 12:43


Niall Sargent

Petition succeeds as County Clare surf spot is saved


Advocates for Doughmore Beach earned a symbolic victory after news broke that an application to build a giant seawall was withdrawn.

You may remember a great deal of hubbub a few months back when a Trump-owned golf course in County Clare, Ireland, proposed building a massive seawall along Doughmore Beach. The plan was to prop up parts of the golf course threatened by erosion and rising seas with a 2-mile long rock seawall. Problem was, to local surfers and environmentalists, the proposed seawall threatened traditional sand movement patterns and had the potential to destroy a well-surfed sandbar at Doughmore. Lots of local residents were also worried that the wall would permanently scar the beach.

In an incomprehensible bit of irony, the Trump team’s application for the seawall referenced protecting the property from potential issues from rising seas, even as presidential candidate Trump routinely called climate change a “hoax” (The mind reels).

Even so, hundreds of locals are employed at the course, and they in turn were concerned that if the wall didn’t get built, the course would close and they’d lose their jobs. Trump is pretty popular in County Clare circles after bringing employment and tourist cash to an off-the-beaten path part of Ireland that can struggle financially.

Groups like Save The Waves began circulating a petition to put pressure on County Clare administrators to deny permission for the Trump International course to build the wall. Over 100,000 people signed the petition, in Ireland and internationally. The effort paid off when last week, it was announced, according to Yahoo News, that the application for the sea wall “was withdrawn by the applicant.”

Irish charger Fergal Smith called the decision a “victory for common sense.”

A sort of compromise was struck, and a much smaller, less intrusive wall be be built, and two holes of the golf course will be moved further from the sea.

I checked in with Nick Mucha from Save The Waves who helped spearhead this campaign. Here’s what he had to say:

“This is a rare and inspiring example of many people working together to overcome the long odds. Trump’s decision to walk away from the seawall proposal is a huge milestone for the #NatureTrumpsWalls campaign. I hope that the surf community takes note that if we work together for the things that we hold dear, we can have a meaningful impact. However, our work continues as we must analyze the next series of proposals and ensure they do not pose any risk to the unique coastal resources of Doughmore Beach.”

Love it or hate it, the incoming Trump administration is about to test the resolve of environmentally-conscious surfers across the U.S., and, potentially, as the Irish case shows, internationally too. Efforts to save Doughmore Beach show that concentrated action by a committed group of surfers and activists can, believe it or not, affect change when you might otherwise least expect it.