Credit: Pxfuel

Belview: An Taisce in “arrogant anti-rural campaign” – should be defunded, says McGrath

An Taisce has come under fire from rural TDs for what they have described as a ” vindicative and arrogant anti-rural campaign”. The TDs previously called for An Taisce to be defunded. 

Leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath made his remarks after the environmental NGO sought leave to appeal a High court ruling which dismissing its challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for a cheese plant in Belview in Co Kilkenny.

Deputy McGrath said that the organisation were “again crossing the line and are abusing their status”.

“We are shocked that An Taisce would now seek to appeal the high court ruling, dismissing their challenge, in respect of the Belview cheese plant, to the Supreme Court. The combined impact of An Taisce’s four consecutive challenges to this project has already resulted in a two year delay to the project,” he said.

“This again demonstrates a deeply rooted bias against rural development by this organisation. The fact that this body would continue with such a vindictive campaign, despite being funded by the taxpayer and designated as a powerful prescribed organisation under the planning laws raises serious questions about the use of public funds and the abuse of power.

“We are calling on the government to now intervene without delay. This organisation cannot be allowed to hold rural communities to ransom and potentially use public funds to frustrate, undermine and delay the planning process.”

“We have been repeatedly calling on the government to undertake an independent financial review of An Taisce, to clarify how the annual taxpayer funding of up to €5million the organisation receives is being spent. It is also necessary to ensure that none of those funds are being used to pay for expensive legal challenges like this one,” he said.

“This organisation is blatantly abusing its position as a prescribed body under the planning laws. Therefore, we are also calling on the government to delist An Taisce as a prescribed body,” the Rural TDs leader said. “In the event that the government will not act now and delist this organisation, then the Rural Independent Group will move a private members motion on this issue, at our earliest opportunity when the Dail resumes.”

“Rural communities are already under increasing pressures to survive, as the government prioritises job creation and economic development in our cities instead of rural areas. Thus, we cannot allow a government funded organisation to frustrate the system and endeavour to derail a major job boosting cheese production facility in the heart of rural Ireland.”

“The Belview cheese plant project is crucial to the long-term sustainability of the Irish Dairy sector and to rural employment. It is critical to rural Ireland’s post-Covid recovery and is vital to the 4,500 farm families who supply milk to Glanbia. The government cannot now stand idly by and allow An Taisce to delay this project for another year or two,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.

Kilkenny County Council granted planning permission for the new cheese facility at Belview in November 2019. An Taisce appealed the decision but An Bord Pleanála refused the appeal and granted permission in June 2020. The decision was brought to the High Court, but on 20 April, 2021, the High Court upheld the planning approval granted by An Bord Pleanála.

An Taisce says its decision is based on a considered analysis of the legal aspects of the case and is rooted in the principles and values central to the mission and role of An Taisce – to protect and advocate for ecological resilience and the future viability of the natural environment.

“Our concerns are increasingly underpinned by a series of reports from the Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities indicating the impacts of intensive agriculture on water and air quality and the increasing greenhouse gas emissions from that sector,” it said.

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