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Nitrates derogation court challenge to continue

A High Court challenge taken by An Taisce against the State’s Nitrates Action Programme is to continue after an interim judgment was issued.

In the 120-page judgment, Judge Richard Humphrys said the case can continue on a narrower number of grounds and listed it for mention on 11 March with further submission to be made by parties.

An Taisce argues the fifth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) introduced in 2022 does not meet the threshold for protecting water quality, as it should under law and sought a judicial review of that matter.

The continued existence of the nitrates derogation, which allows 7,000 Irish farmers farm at higher stocking densities, is contingent on there being a NAP in place.

The proceedings are taken against the Department of Housing, with the Department of Agriculture, the IFA and the ICMSA listed as notice parties.

Reacting to the judgement a spokesperson for An Taisce said they welcome the court’s rigour on this because ultimately this robust legal process serves the public interest.

“We appreciate the time and attention being given by all parties to these proceedings.

“The importance and value of clean water cannot be overstated or taken for granted.

“Water pollution has repeatedly been shown to be the primary environmental concern of the Irish public, over and above other environmental risks such as flooding and extreme storms.

“All life depends on it, and we cannot leave any stone unturned to protect and maintain its quality,” An Taisce said.

IFA President Francie Gorman said the judgment clarifies the issues to be dealt with by the court at a future date.

“The Nitrates Action Programme and the derogation will stand while these matters are being considered. This will be a huge relief for thousands of farm families up and down the country,” he said.

ICMSA President Denis Drennan said that the thousands of Irish farmers currently availing of the derogation would at least have that degree of certainty which he said was the very minimum that they could have expected and which they deserved.

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