Legal dirty laundry - Ireland sued by the European Commission

Ireland is being sued.

It sounds strange doesn't it, unexpected? But not only is it happening at the moment, with the European Commission deciding to press further legal action against Ireland for continued non-compliance with an environmental directive so uninteresting that even the newspapers reporting the story didn't bother explain what it concerned, but it's costing Ireland a good deal of money in the process.

It's part of a long tradition, though.

I first learned of Ireland's somewhat renegade status within the so-called legal European order during a course on European Union law that I took at college last year. Ireland, being a member of the European Union, is expected to implement hundreds and thousands of directives and regulations, the collective output of European Union law, each and every year.

The only problem with this situation is that Ireland has the rather lovable and rebellious tendency of frequently not bothering to do so, or 'failing to transcribe Community legislation into domestic provisions' as the Eurocrats would probably be more likely to describe it. All this rebellion results in a long series of court-cases, fines, and condemnation from the European Union of which the farming directive case is but the latest.

It reminds me a bit of that classic scene in Team America  in which a puppeteer-ed Hans Blix is made tell a the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il that he will "be very angry" with him over his nuclear weapons program and then "write a letter telling you how angry we are" if he fails to change his tune.

The only difference with Ireland is that its paying a hefty price for those angry letters from Brussels.

The latest lawsuit which I'm referring to is the second time that Ireland's been taken to a European court for failing to implement a farming environmental directive, the precise contents of which is probably too boring to be explained, but whatever exactly it concerns, our persistence in not implementing it is going to land us a €3.2m bill in fines from the Union.

What I find extraordinary about this - besides the whole situation of Ireland being repeatedly sued, which I must admit I find somewhat delightfully roguish of us - is that fewer journalists have questioned how this situation can go unchallenged given Ireland's current economic crisis.

All Ireland generally has to do to "implement" or "transcribe" a European regulation or directive is to pass a Ministerial Order, amending Act, or make some other small changes necessary to bring its domestic law into accordance with the European framework. It tends to change from case to case but when all but the most serious changes are required (at which stage it can go to national referendum), the changes are generally simple and straightforward.

For that reason it would appear to be very hard to justify this current court case. Not only in light of the above, but also in light of the fact that this is in fact the second time that we're being sued for not implementing this directive. The first time it happened we said we'd changed our ways. Again, somewhat amusingly, we simply didn't.

Whatever about Ireland's apparently low respect for European/Community law, though, gifting the European Union millions in unnecessary fines is simply stupid and a massive waste of taxpayers money.

If only we could learn from our mistakes.

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