Friday, May 10, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Victory on Slane Bypass, Then Teaching

In the last blog entry, Vincent had just described how the court asked for more information on from the NRA and the Meath County Council.

Question:What decision did the court reach:

Of course months later, which was last year, the decision came down that the planning authorities had refused permission for the Slane bypass. 

That was nice end to the whole odyssey, having had such heartbreaking, I suppose, defeats at both Carrickmines and at Tara, along the way.

Question: Did the recession help with the decision?

You would have to wonder. From a legal perspective, it shouldn’t have had any effect on the planning authorities’ decision because economic issues usually are outside the planning concerns. However, the main issue they determined was that the authorities had not looked at all of the alternatives. One of the alternatives that had been proposed, and indeed was promised to be delivered, was a ban on HGVs in the village. Funding had been taken away from the bypass because of economic issues and they were going to put in this HGV ban because the locals had been calling for 20 years for either a bypass or a HGV ban. In 2007, 2008 when things were already getting bad economically, Fine Fail announced that they were going to go ahead with the bypass and the locals were delighted. Then six months or a year later, the NRA announced that they didn’t have the money. The government said they would do the HGV ban. Minister Noel Dempsey, the local TD, who was also the Minister for Transport promised they would put in this HGV ban. But they didn’t do that and then after the visit by the Taoiseach, all of a sudden there was funding for the bypass. So this went back and forth. At the end of the day no effort was made.

What actually happened was the County Council came out with this outrageous report saying an HGV ban actually couldn’t be implemented in the village. They said they would be sued if they put it in there and that it would be impossible to implement. They even said it would affect international trade. This was all brought up in the course of the hearing. I think the planning authorities saw what was going on there, that this was public money being used not only to get votes, but even the design was so grandiose. Engineers who worked on the National Development Plan saying this is gold plated infrastructure and it should be a much further scaled down version.

The decision came back they hadn’t looked enough at alternatives. There was obviously a route to the west. The economic issues probably played a part but I think An Bord Plenala saw how they had been taken for a ride by the Council and the engineers at Brú na Bóinne. The same thing had happened at Tara. I think they saw that at Tara and they realized at both situations that they hadn’t been given all the information. They hadn’t been apprised of the full information on heritage. The proposers had assumed the authorities didn’t care. I think by the time of the Slane bypass they wanted to make up for past bad decisions, as well.

Question: Where does your teaching tie in to your development?

This is my fourth year teaching at Queens University at Belfast. Just before the Slane bypass issue appeared, I had received an email from the Irish law list, one of their usual emails, and it mentioned that Queens University was looking for someone to teach a class in environmental legislation. Because I’d been in a tough situation in Ireland where my Juris Doctorate degree from the United States is not recognized here in Ireland, I haven’t been able to go into the Four Courts and get registered as a barrister. I realized my best chance here was to take the academic route. To be honest, I was never anxious to be a litigator my whole life and I liked the idea of more of an academic approach to things. So I was delighted when I saw this opportunity because I figured this was something I would be fully qualified for. There aren’t a lot of openings for environmental law here in Ireland. I went up for the interview at the Management School at Queens. They hired me pretty much on the spot which was great.

Next Post: Vincent Salafia: Teaching to Making Sustainable Development Constitutional

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