Case Summary: Friends of the Curragh Environment Ltd -v- An Bord Pleanála & Ors [2006] IEHC 243


Republic of Ireland

The High Court found that in principle it had jurisdiction to award a PCO and endorsed the principles outlined in R (on the application of Cornerhouse Research) -v- Secretary of State for Trade and Industry [2005] EWCA Civ 192; however they refused to do so on facts which did not characterise a "public interest law challenge".

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The Applicant's principal objects are to preserve, protect and improve the environment and heritage of the Curragh by representing the interests of members of the community. They sought to judicially review two decisions of An Bord Pleanála concerning the realignment of a section of roadway and the approval of plans to construct a hotel on the Curragh racecourse.


The High Court refused to grant a PCO.


None of the grounds advanced by the Applicant raised an issue or issues of general public importance. The issue involved the application of well-established principles to new facts. The Court accepted that the Applicant, as distinct from at least some of its members, may well have had no private interest in the outcome of the case. However, there was no evidence that those acting for the Applicant were doing so on a pro bono basis. It was difficult for the Court to see how it would be fair or just to make a PCO in this case as "...such orders are most exceptional. This case exhibits no circumstances which would merit such an order...."

The Applicants had also sought to argue that PCOs, if not available to them under Common Law, were available under EU legislation. However, the EU Directive in question did not satisfy the "clear, precise and unconditional" test necessary for it to be applied directly in domestic law. Even if they had, EU directives may be relied on against member states or emanations of those states.

N.B In Commission of the European Communities v. Ireland (Case c-427/07) the ECJ noted that it was a requirement under EU legislation that member states provide environmental review procedures which were not prohibitively expensive. The fact that Irish courts enjoyed the discretion not to order a successful party its costs did not constitute valid implementation of that requirement.

Case Commentary

The High Court endorsed the principles outlined in R (on the application of Cornerhouse Research) -v- Secretary of State for Trade and Industry [2005] EWCA Civ 192. It is notable that the Court's reasoning was that the case did not raise new or complex legal points. English case-law makes clear that not all judicial reviews will be amenable to PCOs.

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