Victory for environmental democracy

Ian Carey News, Press Releases

Environmental Pillar press release

27 February 2013: The news that NAMA has been told that it is required to give the public access to information on the environmental aspects and impacts of its activities was greeted as a victory for environmental democracy by the Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 national environmental NGOs.

“Instead of trying to block public scrutiny of their affairs, public bodies should embrace environmental democracy,” commented a spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar.  “Too many public bodies run scared of transparency, when it is clearly in all of our interests that environmental information is put out in the public domain.  After all, this information is produced and held on behalf of us, the citizens of Ireland.”

Other public bodies which are currently resisting the application of environmental transparency laws – such as Bord na Mona and Ordnance Survey Ireland – would do well to take note of today’s decision.  “There is nothing to fear and much to be gained from transparency,” added the Pillar.

It was Gavin Sheridan’s original request three years ago to NAMA which gave rise to the involvement of the Commissioner for Environmental Information and to the subsequent High Court case, and this morning’s judgment. Gavin Sheridan, a journalist, had in February 2010 sought information on NAMA under a Statutory Instrument known as the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations, 2007.  NAMA refused to supply the information and argued its refusal was justified on grounds including that it is not a public authority within the meaning of the 2007 Regulations.

In September 2011, Emily O’Reilly, as the Commissioner for Environmental Information, ruled that the agency should be subject to information requests under environmental freedom of information, on the basis of her finding, that it is a public authority within the meaning of provisions of the 2007 European (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations.

The National Asset Management Agency appealed the ruling to the High Court. The case was heard by Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh, who today ruled that NAMA was indeed a public body and therefore subject to the AIE Regulations.

Links:
Commissioner for Environmental Information http://www.ocei.gov.ie/en/
The Aarhus Convention http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/AarhusConvention/

Media Contact

Michael Ewing – 086 867 2153

Notes for Editors
The Environmental Pillar works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:
An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, CELT (Centre for Environmental Living and Training), CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan (GAP Ireland), Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA), Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation (INFF), Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale & Dolphin Group, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.

Ian CareyVictory for environmental democracy