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By Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

The March/April edition of Village magazine carries a review of a book on Irish implementation of EU planning law; “Effective Judicial Protection and the Environmental Assessment Directive in Ireland“, by Áine Ryall. The assessment is by a former chairman of An Taisce, Michael Smith, a man who has had his own measure of conflict in this area (not least with the ubiquitous Treasury Holdings – of Bremore/Gormanston port proposal and NAMA suppliant/landlord fame), so, perhaps understandably, he has decided to come out swinging;

“Irish planning and environmental law has traditionally been weak, with the public often dependent on the exercise by spineless and reluctant public bodies such as local authorities of mere discretions to implement public-interest provisions…”

Or course, this doesn’t mean that he is not broadly correct in what he asserts, a fact borne out in his references to the book in question, by a senior lecturer at University College Cork. The author, in one salient instance; “notes the impetus of planning legislation over the last decade to ‘fast-track’ the process which ‘grates’ against EU Law. She considers Ireland’s unique failure to ratify the EU Aarhus convention… which for the first time equates environmental with human rights and requires member states to provide for review procedures…” No surprises, really, for anyone who has been following the wretched dramas of the last number of years. In the long term, environmental and human rights are obviously interdependent, but, for Irish public representatives, long term thinking mostly comes a poor third to concerns about short term cash and loud constituents.

Now and again, however, there is a brief flash of light, or sense – call it what you will. The Examiner of March 8th carries a report, on the decision by An Bórd Pleanála to support Kerry County Council in their refusal to grant permission for the location of a broadband mast in “a very beautiful and almost pristine landscape”, “one of the most significant Bronze Age landscapes in the country”, at Coomasaharn, in the Glenbeigh area. Some things are important enough to be preserved for those who will come after us, or perhaps, in this case, to keep the tourists happy. Who cares. One between the posts for a change. The full report can be read here;

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/bronze-age-remains-block-broadband-plan-113928.html

To bring us back to reality, the same publisher’s evening paper, the Evening Echo, later carried a front page story about a protest that morning at Cork County Hall, at which 50 members of the ‘West Cork Planning Forum’ claimed that Cork County Council’s planning policy was “preventing people from building homes in rural areas and forcing them into towns“. I wonder. The Mayor’s response, that “the council had done everything possible to facilitate them” may be closer to the mark. This, by the way, is in a country where one house in five is sitting vacant and every rural road is dotted with the same. Madness.

Some astonishing rock-art photographs, from Coomasaharn, are available on the Modern Antiquarian website;

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/10443/coomasaharn.html

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