Rachel Minch is joined on the new committee by vice-chair Conor Linehan SC and members:
- Andrew Jackson,
- Brendan Curran,
- Danielle Conaghan,
- Eoin Brady,
- Fergal Ruane,
- Nap Keeling,
- Nicole Ridge, and
- Zoe Richardson.
The secretary to the committee is Clare Tarpey of the Law Society library staff.
The remit includes assisting the Law Society in its interventions undertaken in relation to law reform or legislative proposals in environmental-and-planning law, as well as providing expert knowledge and guidance, and acting as a reference point for the Law Society and its Council.
It will also cooperate with other committees and task forces, and prepare submissions, statements, and observations on environmental-and-planning-law matters.
The committee was launching at a timely moment, last evening’s packed gathering heard, as the European Court of Human Rights hears its first case on climate impact.
Rachel Minch SC said that it was a privilege to be chair of the committee, which was very much looking forward to making a contribution in this area.
Ms Justice Nuala Butler said that the issue of climate justice was becoming increasingly dominant. Environmental assessments were a feature of planned development, she noted.
Expertise of solicitors
“I regard it as important, not just that the expertise of solicitors who practice in planning and environmental law, is recognised, but that that expertise is now available to the Law Society to assist in making a public contribution in the important areas of climate justice, but also to development and understanding of the law in that area,” the judge said.
Practitioners represent the bridge between a technical and complex body of law and the public whom it is intended to serve, she noted.
This is particularly important, given that the law is intended to facilitate public access to decision-making, she added.
If the law is so complex that people using it find it difficult to understand, this also impedes the public in exercising their rights, the judge said.
Of 52 judgments from the superior courts in 2022, 12 were on planning and environment matters, Ms Justice Butler pointed out.
“That means that between 20% and 25% of the Supreme Court's output last year was concerned with planning and environment law.
“When you think about it, it's not surprising,” she added.
Law Society President Maura Derivan told the gathering that, although society had improved in environmental awareness, recycling efforts, and reduced use of plastic, there was still a long way to go in terms of climate justice.
Some parts of the globe were uninhabitable due to environmental change, she added.
Law Society Committees, with their expert membership, did the groundwork for driving policy forward, the President said.
Lawyers and the judiciary were the guardians of rights in a democracy, and must remain vigilant in this, the Law Society President said.