The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called on An Taisce to answer six key questions ahead of its planned appeal of a High Court decision.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said An Taisce has a “number of questions to answer” following An Taisce’s plans to appeal the High Court’s decision to uphold the granting of planning permission to Glanbia for the construction of a new cheese manufacturing plant in Glanbia Belview, Co. Kilkenny.
Cullinan outlined the six questions as follows:
- Why won’t An Taisce accept decisions of the statutory planning appeals body An Bord Pleanala? Or our High Court?
- How is An Taisce funding these court actions?
- Why did An Taisce fundamentally change its constitution in December?
- Who within An Taisce made the decision to appeal to the High Court and to appeal again?
- Why has An Taisce excluded their local groups from decisions on planning appeals?
- How many members does An Taisce have?
On the first question, Cullinan said: “As it points out, An Taisce is a prescribed body for certain planning matters under the Planning Acts. This means that they are required to be notified of certain planning applications.
“The same Planning Acts that grant them this status has Bord Pleanala as the planning appeals body.
“Yet An Taisce won’t accept its decisions. It must be emphasised that the Judicial Review which An Taisce lost was not against Glanbia – it was against Bord Pleanala.
“Now it won’t accept a decision of the High Court,” Cullinan noted.
Dismissing as “nonsense” An Taisce’s statement that it has “no choice” but to bring an appeal because they want to raise “points of law”, Cullinan said such a move “goes way beyond its remit as a prescribed body”.
“Furthermore, the judge in the High Court case says that it was clear that An Taisce’s real issue is with government policy,” he added, claiming:
“An Taisce has now lost its case three times, but it’s clear its strategy is designed to keep appealing until the project runs out of time. This is a reprehensible abuse of the planning system, its position as a prescribed body and the court system.
“It must be remembered that the people impacted here will be farmers and their families.
On the funding question, the IFA president said: “An Taisce is funded from the state and from charitable donations. Which funds are they using to pay legal fees?
“Is it appropriate that state funds or money raised for charitable purposes is spent on legal fees?”
Regarding An Taisce’s constitutional changes in December, Cullinan claimed: “An Taisce is not the same body as the one originally prescribed under the planning acts. In December 2020, An Taisce passed a new constitution.
“This constitution considerably widened its remit and concentrated power in the hands of their board consisting of seven people. This reduced considerably the powers of its National Council.
“An Taisce must clarify why it took the decision to centralise power in the hands of a small few?
Turning to who is making the decisions, Cullinan said: “An Taisce needs to state what decisions were made under the old constitution and what decisions were made under this new constitution?
“What body in An Taisce decided to make the initial appeal to the High Court and what body has decided to appeal it?”
Regarding the fifth question on local involvement, the president said: “Under the new constitution it appears An Taisce has removed any involvement for local An Taisce groups in decision making around local planning issues.
“It appears to only have reps from 11 regional groups on the council. How many regional groups does An Taisce actually have? And why have they been excluded from having an input on planning matters in their own area?”
Cullinan said that members of Kilkenny IFA met with An Taisce members recently at a local level. At the meeting, An Taisce reps said the decision to launch multiple appeals had been taken at headquarters level, he added.
Finally, on membership, the IFA president said:
“An Taisce needs to state publicly how many members they had at December 31, 2020.”
Calling on the organisation to answer these questions, Cullinan said:
“I wrote to An Taisce a number of months ago seeking to meet them on this and they refused to do so.
“I eventually, through persistence, met one of their senior members on two occasions who advised me that An Taisce wanted to make a stand.
“An Taisce has a privileged position as a prescribed body under the Planning Acts. In my view, it is abusing this privilege.
“Its new constitution raises serious issues about their remit and their democratic mandate,” he concluded.