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Judge says Bantry Bay kelp licence was never in place

Monday, 5th August, 2019 9:29am

Story by Brian Moore
Judge says Bantry Bay kelp licence was never in place

Gail Thomas and Ronan Van Der Hooft at a protest against at the kelp harvesting in Bantry Bay. (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

A JUDGE has ruled she cannot judicially review the licence to mechanically harvest kelp in Bantry Bay, because there is, effectively, no licence in place.

In the High Court on Tuesday, Justice Deirdre Murphy said she has no jurisdiction to review the licence granted by the Minister for Planning to BioAtlantis Aquamarine, because the process of issuing it was still incomplete.

However, while the Bantry Bay Kelp Campaign welcomed the decision, they said neither side could claim true victory as it was ‘more true to say that the case was dismissed on a technicality.

‘Our legal arguments challenging the validity of the licence have in no way been approved; and the exact status, in law, of the licence drawn up by the Minister remains undetermined. ‘Furthermore, it is difficult to predict what happens next, other than this ruling is almost certain to be appealed, which means that our campaign will continue for some time to come, as the case makes its way, most likely, to the Supreme Court.

‘Nonetheless, we most certainly have cause to celebrate, because, for two and a half years, government ministers, government TDs and civil servants have all said to us that, in effect, their hands were tied – the licence had been issued, and there was nothing they could do. We learned, in the High Court, that they were wrong.’

At the hearing, Judge Buckley said that as the Government had not published, in the official State gazette, the decision to grant a licence to BioAtlantis – which is a requirement of the Foreshore Act 1933 – then the licensing process had not been completed.

‘That this has not been done, therefore, the licence process is not yet concluded and will not be concluded until the statutory obligations are complied with,’ she said.

She made no ruling on the arguments for or against the harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay.

Dolf D’hondt of the Bantry Bay Kelp Campaign said that he believes that the campaign to stop the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay was not over, as there may be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Independent TD Michael Collins said: ‘I’m delighted that they have won their case in the High Court. It is sad that a community and voluntary group had to go all the way to the High Court. I would ask BioAtlantis to respect the court’s decision, to step back and not go ahead with the harvesting of the kelp in Bantry Bay.’

A statement from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said that they are examining the judgment.

BioAtlantis CEO John T O’Sullivan told The Southern Star said:  ‘We have no comment at present as we are assessing the implications of the judge's decision.’