Eamon Ryan criticised for Ireland’s intervention in Swiss group’s climate case

Eamon Ryan Criticised For Ireland’s Intervention In Swiss Group’s Climate Case
The Green Party leader said the Irish Government was still reviewing the ruling of the court. Photo: PA
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has been criticised for seeking Ireland’s intervention in a court case taken by a group of Swiss women over climate change.

Green Party leader Mr Ryan said the climate crisis “cannot best be addressed by litigation”.


The group of Swiss women, aged 65 and over, had filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) arguing that the Swiss government had not taken enough action on climate change and that this violated their health rights.



The Strasbourg court ruled in favour of the Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz group earlier this month.

When Mr Ryan was asked in the Dáil for the Irish Government’s rationale on intervening in the case as a third party, he said he himself had sought and was granted the approval.

He said Irish Government was reviewing the ruling of the court, in consultation with the Attorney General’s office.

“In advance of this review occurring fully, it is not possible to determine what, if any, impact the ruling could have on the policy of the Government,” Mr Ryan said in response to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.


“While the Government shares the environmental concerns of the applicants, the global climate crisis cannot best be addressed by litigation, but instead requires collaborative global efforts – efforts to which this Government is strongly committed.”

He said the Government was represented at the hearing by a senior and a junior counsel, and by officials from the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Written and oral observations were made on behalf of the Irish State during the case.

“The final costs of these proceedings have not been determined and to date no payments have been made by my department,” he said.



On Monday, Ms Whitmore said that his decision to intervene was “completely at odds” with the Government’s Climate Action Plan, and suggested the case was taken to prevent legal actions being taken against Ireland.


“The ECHR ruling will put countries throughout Europe, including Ireland, under legal pressure in domestic courts to meet their climate action targets,” she said.

“While a number of countries made written submissions to the court last year, Ireland, along with Switzerland, actually sent a legal team to Strasbourg to challenge the women’s case. Incredibly, it has now emerged that it was Minister Eamon Ryan himself who sought Government approval for Ireland to intervene.

“As it has become blatantly obvious that this Government will miss its climate action targets, I can only assume it was the Minister’s aim to prevent any possible cases being taken directly against the State.

“However, Minister Ryan’s decision to intervene in the Swiss case is completely at odds with his own Climate Action Plan and could have undermined efforts to hold governments to account for failures in meeting targets.”

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said she was “shocked” to hear that Mr Ryan instigated Ireland’s legal intervention in the case and accused the Green Party leader of “sleepwalking us into climate breakdown”.

“I can think of nothing that illustrates the vacuous green-washing politics of Eamon Ryan and the Green Party more than this. He should be ashamed of himself and he owes an apology to the women who brought and won this case,” she said.

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