Roscommon County Council this week released a statement in the wake of the recent High Court decision to halt flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh following a successful injunction by environmental group, Friends of the Environment.
The statement read: ‘In court recently, Roscommon County Council’s legal representatives stated that the Council acted for urgent humanitarian reasons to prevent flooding in exercise of its powers under the Local Authorities (Works) Act, 1949, but accepted that there are further obligations under the Environmental Directives that the Council must comply with.
Mr. Justice Simons of the High Court commended the Council’s approach to the litigation. The situation arose because the obligations under EU environmental law have not been transposed in respect of the Local Authorities (Works) Act, 1949.
Caithaoirleach: ‘Abhorrent that works have ceased’
Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Cllr. Joe Murphy, was scathing in his assessment of a recent High Court decision to prevent the flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh from progressing until further environmental studies take place.
Cllr. Murphy said: “Following the decision of Mr. Justice Simons of the High Court on Wednesday and the legal ramifications set forth, Roscommon County Council will, in accordance with the order, follow the legal process. However I must voice my disdain at this situation.
“Roscommon County Council acted for urgent humanitarian reasons to prevent flooding but accepts that there are further obligations under the environmental directives that the council must now comply with. It is abhorrent that these works have ceased and our concerns must lie with the people of Lough Funshinagh and its surrounding areas.
“The term environmentalists is not owned or limited to an organisation such as ‘Friends of the Irish Environment’. Generations of people around Lough Funshinagh nurtured and cared for this turlough long before there were any groups to “protect” it and through the installation of this overflow pipe we were still endeavoring to save wild life, flora and fauna together with keeping the community safe.
“I want to refute any suggestion that the pause to these works is due to inefficiencies of the local authority. Roscommon County Council proceeded to act immediately under the Local Authorities (Works) Act 1949 as they understood the urgency of this humanitarian emergency and the need for this vital infrastructure.
“As we consider the County Development Plan, we need to seriously set out how emergency works can be carried out quickly and efficiently in similar situations. The legal challenge faced by the council highlighted the legal obstacles that exist even in emergency situations.
“Again I reiterate, our priority must be to the people of Lough Funshinagh and that all required environmental assessments be expedited as a matter of urgency. I will work tirelessly with my council colleagues on this matter and would ask our Oireachtas Members and Ministers to do the same”.
Roscommon County Council has been left with no option but to accept that flood relief works at Lough Funshinagh cannot continue until environmental studies have been undertaken. The Council will not spend any more valuable time on litigation, but instead will move forward with environmental assessments as soon as possible.
It is disappointing that it is going to take a bit longer to deliver a solution to the flooding hardship that the local community has to continue to endure.
The Council deeply regrets that the expectations of the local community have been dashed. It was always the case that the works were being carried out to protect and keep the community safe. The legal challenge faced by this Council highlighted the legal obstacles that exist even when urgent works are required. Consideration should be given as to the transposition of EU law to apply to circumstances where such emergency intervention is required’.