Concerns are being raised about the refusal to allow a County Galway TD to raise questions over impending EU fines that could be levied against the Government for its failure to carry out an environmental impact assessment at Derrybrien wind farm in south County Galway.
Fianna Fáil Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte had sought to raise a number of questions over the wind farm, her questions came after the European Court of Justice said the State should be subject to large daily fines - already amounting to almost €4 million - for failing to comply with EU legislation that might have prevented landslides caused by the construction of the wind farm in 2003.
A legal opinion issued by the court has proposed the State be handed a daily fine of €1,000 for every day since its earlier ruling on July 3 2008, until it achieves compliance with EU environmental legislation on assessing the impact of the development of the wind farm at Derrybrien. Such a fine, if confirmed by the full ruling of the CJEU later this year, would result in a figure of €3,998,000 to date.
Dep Rabbitte sought to ask the Minister for the Environment, Richard Bruton, what actions were being taken to prevent such fines being imposed; if the environmental impact statement would be carried out; if his department or the ESB would be liable for the potential fines; and if he would be making a statement on these matters.
In reply the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghail, told Dep Rabbitte the Minister had "no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann on this matter" and it was instead, a "matter for the ESB which is independent in its functions".
David Murray, a 'solution architect' with hi-tech company Arm, an activist for flood relief solutions in south Galway, and who writes in the southgalwayfloods.wordpress.com, was critical of the reply given to Dep Rabbitte.
"We are not allowed to ask questions about a potential large penalty to be imposed on the Irish Government by the European Court of Justice on an environmental infringement," he said. "We are told we have to leave it to the ESB, a company 95 per cent owned by the Government, who promised to carry out an environmental impact assessment over 11 years ago because it is independent in its functions. I can see how the European Court of Justice is critical of Government."