We have a long and expensive tradition of light-touch regulation. That tradition, that corrosive pretence, often amplified by sanctions that are often more than nominal.
This sorry truth applies to banking, planning, construction, policing and environmental protection legislation, many other areas too. In each instance, ambitions are expressed through legislation but that legislation is all too often an imaginary presence, almost academic to how we live our lives.
This leads to a breakdown in trust that can have unexpected outcomes.
One of those has provoked the chief executive of Cork County Council to describe a High Court decision to reclassify an entire river as a special protection area for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel as “very significant”, and one that could be “an extremely limiting factor on proposed growth.”
Cork council chief executive Tim Lucey has written to the Department of Heritage, Culture on the ruling's implications and a reply is awaited.
Two years ago, after years of working together, the Department and the county council, persuaded the EU to declassify the River Blackwater as a special area of protection for the mussel.
That ruling was challenged in the High Court. The Department didn't offer a defence so the High Court ruled that the river to revert to protection status.
It seems fair to suggest that had environmental protection legislation been enforced along the Blackwater valley then there might have been no need for this Trojan Horse case. Had the rules been properly applied the water would have supported all resident wildlife.
Shooting yourself in the foot is the usual phrase to describe this situation.