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Environmental group claims Roscommon County Council in contempt of court over works on flood relief scheme


High Court

High Court

High Court

An environmental protection group has claimed before the High Court that Roscommon County Council has breached an agreement over the halting of works on a flood relief scheme.

Lawyers representing Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) say the council is in contempt of court arising out of the council's plan, announced earlier this month, to continue to construct a 3km pipeline taking water from Lough Funshinagh to nearby Lough Ree.

As a result, FIE seeks an order from the court that Roscommon County Council's CEO Eugene Cummins be brought before the court to answer the alleged contempt.

Last August, FIE launched proceedings aimed at quashing the council's decision to allow works, including the construction of the pipeline.

The court initially granted FIE a temporary order halting work on the project, located some 12km north of Athlone.

The action was resolved before the case went to a hearing after the council consented to orders quashing its decision permitting the proposed works to proceed.

As part of the settlement the council also consented to an order remediating the lands which were the subject of the proceedings.

The council also agreed to pay the costs of FIE's judicial review challenge against the decision last May to authorise the works.

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The remediation works would be the subject of an agreement between the parties, it was further agreed.

The court also heard the local authority accepted it had not fulfilled certain obligations it ought to have in relation to the flood relief works.

The matter came before Mr Justice Garrett Simons today, when the court was told by Jon Kenny Bl, for FIE, that it believes the council has breached the order regarding the remediation of the area where the pipeline had been laid.

On October 14, FIE claims it was taken by surprise when the council decided to authorise the construction of the pipeline to allow water be pumped from Lough Funshinagh to Lough Ree.

It claims it was not consulted about the proposal and was unaware of it until the matter was reported in the local media.

FIE says while the project was subject to screening for the purpose of complying with EU Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats, it has grave reservations about the adequacy of the screening assessments.

FIE claims that by using the pipeline and manholes constructed earlier this year, the council has taken no substantive steps to comply with its obligations under the remediation plan agreed between the parties last August.

This, it is claimed, amounts to a contempt of the orders made by the court in August. FIE asked the council to desist for the steps it announced earlier this month. However, it claims that request was not complied with.

Mr Justice Simons said he was prepared, on an ex-parte (one side only represented) basis, to grant FIE permission to serve short notice of the attachment proceedings on Roscommon County Council.

The judge also noted FIE was not seeking, at this stage, an order which could result in Mr Cummins being arrested or jailed until after the County Council had been fully heard on the matter.

The judge adjourned the action to Friday.

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