The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that Ireland failed to fulfil some of its obligations under an EU directive on natural habitats.
The Habitats Directive required Ireland to identify a network of sites where important or endangered animal or plant species, or certain rare or vulnerable habitat types, were present to a degree that was significant at a European level.
The judgment said that Ireland had failed to designate as special areas of conservation 217 of 423 sites, known as Natura 2000 sites, on a list compiled by the European Commission.
Ireland had also failed to designate site-specific conservation measures for 140 of the sites, according to the judges.
Malcolm Noonan (Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, pictured) said that he was studying the judgment, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
“We recognise the importance and the significance of the judgement, and the findings of non-compliance with the Habitats Directive,” he said, adding that it was important to note that the findings referred to the position in 2019.
Minister Noonan stated that the Government had made “very considerable progress” in recent years on the issue, and had created a dedicated team to implement Natura 2000 conservation measures.
“I am confident that we will respond to this judgement swiftly, with positive and constructive actions, in order to bring Ireland into full compliance,” he said.
Niall O Donnchu (Director General of the NPWS) said that more than 95% of all Natura 2000 sites were now covered by the relevant statutory instrument, and that 100% of the sites were now covered by published conservation objectives.
“It is our firm intention that the judgement will spur NPWS on to further action,” he added.