Ireland must do more to protect wildlife

The Irish government has been told it must take steps to improve its protection of wildlife, including drawing up detailed plans showing the breeding and resting areas of several listed species.

Commission v Ireland

Habitats Directive

The European Court of Justice has found that Ireland has failed to take the necessary specific measures to effectively implement the system of strict protection required by Article 12(1) of the Habitats Directive. It has also found that Ireland has retained provisions of Irish legislation that are incompatible with Article 12(1) and 16.

In relation to the first point, the Court held that the absence of species actions plans or similar measures meant there were unacceptable gaps in the system of strict protection. It also pointed to the fact that, with the exception of the natterjack toad and the horseshoe bat, the Irish authorities had insufficient information on several listed species, their breeding and resting places and the threats faced by them to effectively implement a system of strict protection.

The Court also stated that the mere existence of a network of full-time officials responsible for conservation does not in itself demonstrate that the specific measures required by Article 12(1) have been adopted.

A further issue of concern to the Court was the fact that Environmental Impact Assessments are carried out only on a limited number of projects in Ireland, and that, of those which are the subject of such an assessment, property developers were not required to provide information on protected species after development consent had been granted.

It considered that the system of Environmental Impact Assessments in Ireland was therefore not preventing certain developments which could be harmful to the environment.

In relation to the second issue, the Commission pointed to a parallel regime of derogations that were incompatible with the scope and conditions of the application of Article 16. In ss23(7)(a) – (c) of the Wildlife Act there are provisions to the effect that it is not an offence to unintentionally kill or injure or interfere with or destroy or injure the breeding or resting place of a protected wild animal in the course of agriculture, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, turbany, or while constructing a road, carrying out an archaeological operation, building operation or work of engineering operation.

The text of the Judgement is available at the following link.

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