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For Immediate Release
Press Release February 5th 2024:

Irish Environmental Network (IEN) Got over €1 million for An Taisce's Shell to Sea Court Case Settlement
IEN got an average of €100,000 per meeting of the Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG) over 12 Years
Documents released under an AIE request have revealed that the Irish Environmental Network (IEN) was paid over €1 million for the Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG), which was set up as a condition of An Taisce controversially settling and withdrawing its challenge against the Shell pipeline and foreshore licence in 2011 after an eleven-day hearing in the High Court.

The so-called ELIG Bureau consists of nominated representatives from An Taisce, the Environmental Pillar and the Department of Environment or other departments communicating and meeting to improve the transposition, implementation and enforcement of  environmental law.

Attracta Uí Bhroin, now environmental law officer at IEN, was An Taisce’s ELIG nominated member from the very beginning of ELIG being set up in 2011. Every year, €90,000 is paid as a “grant” from the Department of Environment “to the IEN for ELIG'' (rising to €95,000 in 2023). AIE Documents have only been found for 10 meetings of the ELIG Bureau since it was created over 12 years ago, amounting to a total grant to IEN of €100,000 per meeting! However, IEN accounts show that ELIG actually received a total income of  €153,483 in 2021 alone. In 2016 Attracta Uí Bhroin is reported to have stated at An Taisce's Council election: “Leveraging my extensive management experience I led the fundraising in the crisis of 2012, addressed the awful redundancies and supported the rebuild. I’ve been key to several important legal cases following on from the settlement of the Corrib cases which I opposed. Protecting all the people and aspects of an organisation like An Taisce while dealing with internal and external challenges isn’t easy.”.

Justin Byrne, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of IEN and his wife, the environmental law officer of IEN Attracta Uí Bhroin, are also Chair and Vice Chair respectively of “An Claíomh Glas” (formerly the Finnstown Input Group), run from their address in Lucan, Dublin. An Claíomh Glas hit the headlines in January 2022 when it threatened to take legal action to compel Minister for Defence Simon Coveney  to assess the impact of Russian Naval drills of the South West coast of Ireland.and intervene if they were going to cause damage.

The An Taisce case was very controversial in late 2011 because, although the State admitted it had failed to transpose EU environmental laws correctly, the settlement meant that the permissions for the Shell pipeline and foreshore licence could not be overturned in court and An Taisce, the last man standing legally against the Shell project, just walked away and betrayed the campaigners in Mayo. This contrasts dramatically with Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) who, it is reported, turned down what was referred to in the Dáil as a bribe of €1 million, in its appeal against an extension of planning permission for the proposed Shannon LNG US fracked gas import terminal in County Kerry. FIE, the  last man standing, won the case, with Shannon LNG losing all permissions for its fracked gas terminal after a 13-year battle.

At the time, Charles Stanley-Smith, the An Taisce Chairman, referred to it as a “victory” and finished his patronising and hurtful press release by stating “To all of you who supported us in getting to here – we thank you and trust you are satisfied with your vindication.” The locals at Shell to Sea saw it all very differently, sayingAnother Deal Behind Doors Betrays People of Erris”. Shell to Sea reported the tense reaction to the case pullout by An Taisce as follows:
“An Taisce board member Attracta Uí Bhroin travelled to Belmullet Civic Centre to defend the withdrawal of An Taisce’s legal challenges to the validity of consents for the Corrib Gas project. An Taisce have claimed that their settlement is a 'victory for the environment' despite the fact that the State remains in breach of European environmental directives in proceeding with the Corrib project. [...]

On Tuesday night over sixty members of the local community listened to Uí Bhroin attempt to defend An Taisce’s settlement of the Corrib judicial review cases with the State. Uí Bhroin argued that An Taisce had always been clear that it was taking the case to improve government accountability for other communities in the future, rather than to save Corrib. This was challenged by local residents who had attended An Taisce’s previous meeting in Belmullet in which An Taisce had sought to explain their position and raise money from the people in the affected area to cover An Taisce’s legal expenses.

Local campaigners speaking at the meeting unanimously condemned An Taisce’s settlement and also the environmental organisation’s misleading communications with the community prior to the court case. When Uí Bhroin contended that An Taisce had made it clear to the community that the case would not help to make Corrib safe, one Pobal le Chéile member responded that ‘I don't accept that that was presented clearly to us, when the initial presentation for fundraising was made, prior to the judicial review being sought. I was present at the time and I decided to contribute as a result of the presentation. I can tell you, the impression that was given to me is at variance with what you are presenting now as the goals of An Taisce.’

Interestingly Uí Bhroin was not at liberty to disclose the exact content or document which is the settlement between An Taisce and the State. Uí Bhroin claimed that the settlement consists of four main points; An Taisce’s withdrawal of the legal challenges, the establishment of an environmental law implementation group, a sum of money to contribute to An Taisce’s legal costs, and a statement which was read in court.

Local residents questioned the settlement, asking ‘is the settlement to which Charles Stanley Smith referred and on which basis these cases were dropped, is there a written document which can be called a settlement and which we could see?’. After a very long pause Uí Bhroin conceded that ‘There is a document, but I’m not sure that you can see it.’

Local campaigners also questioned Uí Bhroin about the lack of guarantees in the settlement and the nature of the ‘implementation group’ and established that there are as yet no terms of reference or confirmed membership list of this group.

The community members strongly queried why An Taisce had come down to Mayo in the first place to ask people to donate money to this case if they had always known that it would not help the community’s efforts to ensure the Corrib project is done safely. Uí Bhroin mentioned that the settlement included payment of An Taisce’s legal expenses by the State. She explained that if An Taisce now emerged from the case with a net surplus, that local people who had donated money for legal expenses would be entitled to a refund. Uí Bhroin was unclear about when and how this would happen but suggested that local residents requiring this refund should contact An Taisce”.

An Taisce must now release the full details of the settlement which brought such a massive sum to the IEN after it dropped its High Court Challenge. Don’t the people of Mayo deserve that much respect, at least?


AIE Documents can be viewed here

Total payments: 11 payments of €90,000 and 1 payment of f €95,000 = Total of €1,085,000 from 2012 to 2023 inclusive, referenced as “Grant Payments from DECC to the IEN for ELIG)

Meetings:                    Nominated Attendees from the environmental groups
19th April /2012:    Siobhán Egan (BWI), David Healy (FEASTA), Michael Ewing (IEN), Attracta Uí Bhroin (An Taisce).

18th July 2012:    
24th September 2012:
19th November 2012:
17th July 2013:            EPAT: Andrew Jackson, Michael Ewing, Attracta Uí Bhroin
8th April 2013:          Andrew Jackson (Environmental Pillar), Michael Ewing (Environmental Pillar), Attracta Uí Bhroin (An Taisce) - refers to another meeting in July   
7th February 2014:    EPAT: Andrew Jackson, Michael Ewing, Attracta Uí Bhroin, David Healy, Donna Mullen
                                    Attracta Uí Bhroin appointed “ELIG Facilitator” for EPAT
                                    Andrew Jackson appointed for An Taisce
                                    Michael Ewing (IEN and Pillar Coordinator)
                             Donna Mullen (Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar Law, Compliance and Enforcement Working group)
24th July 2014:            EPAT: Andrew Jackson, Michael Ewing, Attracta Uí Bhroin, David Healy
29th April 2015:            EPAT: Andrew Jackson, Michael Ewing, Attracta Uí Bhroin, David Healy
19th January 2016:        EPAT: Ian Lumley, Michael Ewing, Attracta Uí Bhroin, David Healy

John McElligott
Safety Before LNG