Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

3:00 pm

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)

I thank Deputy Stagg and acknowledge that he has been most supportive on this issue during my period in office. The judgment of the European Court of Justice is most interesting, especially if one reads it in the context of the earlier opinion given by the Advocate General. A most interesting new law was enacted on the jurisdictional right of the European Court of Justice in matters relating to this. It is important to remember that we were in a novel position, in the sense that one member state was suing another member state in an international tribunal.

The interesting point about the court judgment is that it clarifies certain international agreements that fall within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which was not clear before. Previously, the view of the legal services was that this was an ambiguous area. One of the things that has been leveraged out of this case is a clarification of the position of the European Court of Justice.

If one reads what the Advocate General has said, which I am sure Deputy Stagg has, he made some interesting comments about a member state having rights under UNCLOS which could not be frustrated because of an issue as to where one would take the case. Incidentally, that applies not only to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but also, potentially, to other international conventions, which makes this a most important case in terms of the role of the European Court of Justice.

The case requires detailed consideration. Deputy Stagg is correct that we only have a year left in office, but my suspicion is that the issue of Sellafield will be ongoing for some time. What has resulted from this case is a new clarity on the Community legal order and the jurisdictional right of the European Court of Justice. Those are the issues which we will now pursue.

Deputy Stagg's point was good and well made. Rather than exhaust ourselves occasionally looking for minute differences in opinion on this issue, it should be something on which we could combine our forces. I would like to see this matter discussed, for example, by the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government to see how we could further it because I know Deputy O'Dowd shares my passion, as does Deputy Stagg, to see Sellafield closed and a line drawn under that sad part of the relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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