Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said judicial reviews of the kind holding up investment by Glanbia in a new cheese factory are creating challenges on the investment side and in terms of the creation of jobs.
“There is a balance to be struck in terms of objecting to significant facilities.
"People have rights to object but, on the other hand, the increasing use of judicial review is something on which we, as a society, will have to reflect”, said the Taoiseach in the Dáil, after three TDs spoke against An Taisce for seeking permission by the High Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for the cheese plant.
The judicial review commenced in the High Court recently, but a decision is not expected for some months.
“There is an independent planning process. It is rigorous and it should be respected”, said the Taoiseach.
“There is a growing sense that the judicial review is becoming a new mechanism to frustrate and delay projects, hoping that they may not develop.”
He said a similar problem has arisen in forestry.
“We saw it in forestry in the past while, where there were consistent interventions, which were designed to stop any licences from issuing, and we had to deal with that legislatively.
“There are significant issues, as we prepare the national development plan, for example. We have reviewed this.
"The range of projects, be they infrastructural or production, that are held up now, has to be a cause for concern overall.”
However, An Taisce, which works to promote environmental awareness and action in the context of the climate and biodiversity emergencies, said it remains fully committed to its mission.
“Out of respect for the court and the ongoing legal proceedings, An Taisce will not make any further comment on the case until the matter is decided”, said the organisation.
The matter arose in the Dáil last week when Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said “idealistic people” in An Taisce were “acting the maggot, which is damaging our economy and causing devastation for young farmers”.
Independent Laois-Offaly TD Carol Nolan said An Taisce is “completely overstepping the mark”.
“All of us here have spoken about the need for job creation in rural towns and villages.
"We cannot let this continue. We need strong intervention with An Taisce.
"Also, there must be collaboration between An Taisce, farmers, and Glanbia."
Tipperary Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill said the Glanbia plan to produce 50,000 tonnes of Gouda cheese would greatly reduce dependence on the British cheddar cheese market.
“Farmers have made many commitments, and it is extremely disappointing that An Taisce, following An Bord Pleanála’s decision, can get a judicial review and delay this project for many years.
"That has the potential to make the project economically unviable.
"It will have huge repercussions for both the company itself and the milk producers supplying Glanbia.”
An Taisce said its overall mission is to enhance water quality, climate action, protection of biodiversity and food security, access to environmental justice, and environmental education for all of Irish society.
“A key part of this mission is upholding civil society’s right to use democratic structures and judicial processes for the common good.”
It said there have been calls for An Taisce to withdraw their case, after Glanbia announced it will temporarily curtail milk supply due to the delay in the cheese factory project at Belview in south Kilkenny, a joint venture with Dutch dairy processor Royal A-ware.