Despite a ruling that the Galway City Outer Bypass will damage an area of special conservation, proof that its construction is overwhelmingly in the public interest may see the controversial motorway being built.
This is the view which has emerged following the recent judgment of the EU Court of Justice regarding the bypass. In a 14-page judgement delivered by the Third Chamber of the EU court, it noted that construction will result in “lasting and irreparable loss of the whole or part of a priority natural habitat”.
However it pointed out that national planning authorities may grant an application for a project if that application is made through the Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest procedure, and the authority is satisfied there is no alternative solution.
According to Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne, the judgment “brings clarity” to the bypass situation and enables the continuation of legal proceedings in the Irish courts.
“The Galway City Outer Bypass remains very much alive,” he said.
Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesperson and Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said the judgment means it is vital for the Government to begin an IROPI process immediately to ensure it goes ahead
“Although the court has ruled that the project contravenes the Habitats Directive,” he said, “we can still lodge an application to prove it is vital to the public interest. I am calling on the Government to immediately give an instruction to proceed with the planning of the bypass according to the IROPI process.”
Dep Ó Cuív said the legal complications and delays to the project could have been avoided if advice from the attorney general in the previous government “had been accepted”.
“This project has been in planning for around 20 years,” he said. “It is imperative there are no further delays. The Government said once legal certainty was given, they would take steps to proceed with this project. They must now keep that promise.