Environmental group An Taisce is seeking a judicial review of the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) through the High Court.

The website for the Courts Service has a record of a judicial review case in which An Taisce is listed as the plaintiff, and the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government is the defendant, as is the Irish state.

The Department of Housing is the government department responsible for the nitrates derogation.

An Taisce’s case was initiated on May 31. So far, filings in the case include a judicial review originating statement and affidavits (sworn written statements from participants) submitted on that date.

It is understood that An Taisce has not yet been given leave to proceed with the review, with the court yet to decide if the review will go ahead.

The court records show that the case is set to resume on July 20.

Although the case records do not indicate the subject of the judicial review, government sources indicated that the case relates to a challenge by An Taisce to the NAP.

Sources have indicated that there is “concern in government circles” over the potential review, particularly over what it may mean for the nitrates derogation.

While the derogation was granted at EU level and is technically out of the reach of procedures in national courts, the NAP is a government programme and can be challenged.

However, the extension of a derogation to a member state by the European Commission is tied to that state having a functioning NAP. Therefore, if the NAP is quashed or rendered invalid, the derogation is unlikely to continue without it.

A spokesperson for An Taisce told Agriland: “Following an extended period of review, An Taisce last month made an application to the High Court to seek a judicial review of the fifth Nitrates Action Programme.

“That application is rooted in the undisputed evidence of continuing deterioration of water quality in Ireland, where the indicators are negative and continuing in a downward direction.

“These figures are damning proof that previous NAPs have failed to meet their purpose, which is to enable Ireland to fulfill the objectives of the [EU’s] Nitrates Directive,” the spokesperson claimed.