An Taisce has welcomed the High Court’s “rigour” in relation to its ongoing legal challenge against the state’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP).

Justice Richard Humphreys, who is presiding over the case, has published an interim judgement totaling 92,375 words setting out what issues will come before the court in relation to the case.

An Taisce launched legal proceedings last March to judicially review the government’s NAP because it claims that “measures taken under successive NAPs have failed in their objective” which is to “prevent pollution of surface waters and ground water from agricultural sources”.

Justice Humphreys has directed that the An Taisce case must go ahead on the basis that the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) is “in accordance with the Nitrates Directive”.

This element has been welcomed by farm organisations.

An Taisce has brought judicial review proceedings against the Department of Housing, Heritage, and Local Government, the Environmental Assessment Unit, the state and the Attorney General.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) are notice parties to the challenge.

High Court

A spokesperson for An Taisce said that it welcomed what it described as the High Court’s “rigour” in relation to its legal challenge because it said “this robust legal process serves the public interest”. 

“We appreciate the time and attention being given by all parties to these proceedings. 

“The importance and value of clean water cannot be overstated or taken for granted. Water pollution has repeatedly been shown to be the primary environmental concern of the Irish public, over and above other environmental risks such as flooding and extreme storms.

“All life depends on it, and we cannot leave any stone unturned to protect and maintain its quality,” the spokesperson added.

In his interim judgement Justice Justice Humphreys said that the applicant (An Taisce) had “come through the first round essentially intact”. 

“Its pleadings have held up reasonably well, and while the state did make a couple of minor valid criticisms amidst the deluge of ineffective or premature ones, they aren’t fatal because the points being made are acceptably clear. 

“Getting through the first qualifying leg has been laborious enough – I can possibly be allowed to indiscreetly say that the present judgement has gone through a recent personal record 48 drafts at this stage – but the one consolation is that, all going well, the number of issues should be on a downward curve,” the judge stated.. 

An Taisce

Justice Humphreys has directed that all parties involved make further written submissions on a number of key issues in relation to the case.

The case is listed for mention in the High Court on March 11 when a potential date for an oral hearing may be fixed.

The judge also detailed in his interim judgement that “costs of the proceedings to date be reserved, subject to liberty to apply”.