Glen of the Downs
latest updates from Irish environmental protest
update: 22.06.00: Ireland's first road protest site against the extension of the European superhighway has largely disbanded due to the jailing and intimidation of protesters. There is still a camp but those going will need to provide for themselves. 0035 314973773 www.emc23.tp/glen
GLEN NEWS EXTRA!!! FRIDAY FEB. 18, 2000
THIRTEEN ENVIRONMENTALISTS JAILED INDEFINITELY WITHOUT CHARGE
Thirteen environmental campaigners from the Glen Vigil have been jailed indefinitely for refusing to give an undertaking to the court to stay off Wicklow County Council and Duchas land. However one campaigner who did take the oath was also imprisoned by Mr Justice Robert Barr today.
These people are imprisoned without having committed a crime, without even being accused of committing a crime, without having had a trial to determine whether they are in breach of a civil trespass matter. They have no legal representation and are denied their constitutional right to legal aid. This can only be described as internment and cannot be tolerated in a modern democratic society.
One of the jailed, Dubliner Tony Baird said in court "I am an honest man. This land is being destroyed. The Glen belongs to the people." When the judgement was made Mary Murphy from Galway sang "Open your eyes, Its time to wake up, Enough is Enough is Enough".
14th December 1999
SUBMISSION TO COURT ON GLEN CASE GOING TO EUROPE Today the legal team for the Glen of the Downs submitted to Mr. Justice O'Sullivan, that the court case on the issue of the EIA required under SAC laws, should be referred onto the European Court.
The Glen's legal team argued that yesterday, National Law acted through the court's discretion on a timing issue, to effectively deprive the plaintiff of a hearing on the substance of his case, to which he is legally entitled under European Laws. The Glen team argued that because the legal substance of the case (the EIA situation) was recognised yesterday, by the Court, as a serious issue falling against the proposed Motorway development, it should be referred on to the European Courts for a thorough hearing.
The fact that the violation of a European Directive could be at hand gives European level decisions supremacy over national Court decisions. The ruling made yesterday was made at a discretionary national-law level, and could be over-ruled by the European Court. Mr. Justice O'Sullivan said the submissions he had received were too condensed to be ruled on today, so we are expecting to hear his final verdict on whether or not the case will go on to Europe, at some time tomorrow.
Friday 10 December 1999
Today at around 10-11am, a van with about 5 policemen in a van appeared near the entrance to the car park into the glen of the downs nature reserve. When a couple of the activists went to find out what was happening, they were told that the police were just here to remove the white crosses which had been hung from some of the trees, on the west side.
The crosses had been hung there to draw attention to the imminent murdering of the trees. The official reason for removing these was that they were a hazardous distraction for drivers on the "dangerous" stretch of road. This seemed strange, as traffic moves quite slowly at that hour of the morning. Feelings were not too tense, as activists joked that maybe we should put a wonder bra advert up, as in the city, where corporate distractions are not seen as dangerous.
However, when 3 more vans of police drove up, and 2 JCBs appeared, we began to feel quite concerned. We sounded the alarm, by banging a large sheet of metal, and very quickly, trees were occupied. Police and workers taped off an area, which they then attempted to fell, threatening to arrest anyone who came to where they were grouped. Most of the gardai were along the roads, directing the traffic, or huddled in a group around the base of a tree, south-east of the entrance to the carpark. There were people attached to lock-ons along the stretch designated for felling, and in the trees.
There were several officials taking photographs and filming the event. The people in tunnels were taken hot flasks and informed of the situation. Then Council workers came over to the west side where the tunnels are situated, and began cutting the wires that were being used to show where it is unsafe to walk. Obviously it is important that everyone knows where the tunnels are for safety reasons.
The wire-cutters were calmly told why they should not be cutting this wire, which is essential for the safety of tunnelers. The reply from the wire-cutters was: "Well, I'm properly insured". The Source office and the VOICE office in Dublin, were contacted, and a request for more bodies again repeated.
After putting some of the crosses into their van the council workers drove away, and the Gardai began to leave. The activists made victorious noises, and there was much merriment. However, some trees to the north-east of the carpark were bulldozed while the attention was focused elsewhere-simply through not enough people being present to defend the woodland all at once.
The Gardai and other workers (I'm not sure if they are contract workers or Wicklow County Council workers) were only here in total for about 2 hours.
About half an hour after the vehicles had gone, a helicopter began to circle above the camp-it remained there for another half an hour or so. I am told it was a Gardai helicopter. In the light of everyone in the camp being officially presented a document* on Wednesday 08 December, with a map showing the exact areas designated for felling, the general consensus was that this morning was a deliberate strategy to get protesters into areas where they would be officially trespassing on WICKLOW COUNTY COUNCIL land, in order to press charges.
Alternative explanations are that this is an attempt to tire protesters out with tension and waiting, to weaken us for the full-scale clearance of the land. We cannot know if the helicopter was scanning the area for an idea of the number of people, tree house and walkway-structures, etc. or simply an intimidatory tactic.
What we do know is that the feeling on the ground at times of tree-felling is tense, and that Gardai seem tentative and nervous. Gardai were helpful, and reasonable, helping protesters across the road, and avoiding eye-contact with the protesters whenever possible. John Gormley also made an appearance in the Glen of the Downs later in the afternoon, and said that the Green Party fully support the non-violent direct-action campaign in the Glen.
It was ironic for us in the Glen of the Downs to hear the National Road Authority's statement today that "there will never be another traffic jam in Ireland. Congestion can become an unpleasant memory for the people of Ireland." As part of the National Development Plan, the National Roads Authority received £4.8 billion, while the public train system received nothing.
We wonder how many more beautiful places will come under threat as a result of this development, and how many more sites must be protected by the people of Ireland, before conservation of our environment and improvement of the public transport system become more effectively prioritised within the democratic process
*A copy of the Wicklow County Council's court order against the activists was served to us on Wednesday 08 December, by the Gardai. We were presented with this document with a copy of the map and highlighted cutting-zones, so that we would be totally aware of when we were breaking the law, and when not.
Back in Court!
The Glen of the Downs legal team have successfully obtained an interim injunction preventing further tree felling in the woodland until 11:00 a.m. Monday morning. The Court will then hear argument relating to the Glen's inclusion in Dúchas' list of proposed Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). The SAC is a designation under the EU's habitats directive which offers protection to important sites and eco-systems. The Glen of the Downs woodland qualifies as a sessile oak woodland complying with Annex II of the Directive. If the High Court accepts the Glen's legal team's argument that publication on the SAC list requires an Environmental Impact assessment to be carried out prior to any work being done on the road, the felling may have to cease until an EIA is conducted. If argument is rejected then the chainsaws will return next week.
Either way, the High Court hearing will highlight the importance of the Glen as a rare eco-system intrinsically valued by European law.
The Glen was not published as a proposed SAC until August 1999, fully four years after the EU's deadline for publishing the list of sites had passed. This delay was avoidable and may result in further destruction of the Glen. The EU took the issue so seriously that the Commission threatened to withhold billions of Euros of structural funds from Ireland. Ironically structural funds will be used to fund the Glen motorway development. ENDS
9th December 2.30pm thurs update
still no action, support the Glen any way you can.
2pm Wednesday.7th Dec
No sign of Wicklow Co. Council so far today. Yesterday trees were cut along the East side as far as the entrance to the car park. A scene of destruction. The vigil keepers were able to stop cutting at about 1pm, by climbing into trees, attaching to lock-ons and getting between the trees and the chainsaws. Names and addresses of all those who entered the marked cut zone and Wicklow Co. Co used video cameras to help identify them. A cheer went up when the chainsaws were turned off and the destruction stopped. Preparations are ongoing in the Glen to strengthen defenses in expectation of a further "VISIT" from Wicklow Co. Co. Show your support Visit the Glen. Bring Rope,food, blankets, tea, milk...... and yourselves..........
Subject: Glen of the Downs - SACrifice
Earth First! Ireland. SACrifice
The Glen of the Downs has been proposed as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by Dúchas, the Government heritage service. It complies with the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive and as such SHOULD enjoy the protection of European Law. However the Government delayed sending its list of proposed SACs (pSAC) to the EU Commission.
This list was due in 1995 for inclusion in the EU's Natura 2000 programme. By June 1999 the list was so overdue the EU threatened to withhold Structural Funds from Ireland as a consequence of the delay. At the end of August 1999 the Glen was officially published as a pSAC. But the protection of the SAC does not apply until the full list of sites has been received and approved by the EU.
Now the chainsaws of Wicklow are cutting down the Glen's trees, leaving a permanent impact on the ecosystem. If the SAC list had been submitted in time the Glen would have been afforded EU protection. As it is, the Wildlife Act has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as having no protective function for the Glen or any other Nature Reserve in Ireland.
The case makes a nonsense of legislation designed to protect the environment. Responsibility for the loss of the habitat must lie, not just with the Council who are effectively "just doing their job", but with successive Ministers and officials at the Department of Arts Culture and the Gaeltacht who neglected their legal obligations by failing to compose the SAC list and sending it to Brussels within the specified time frame. Go to the Glen! Earth First! No compromise in defence of Mother Earth.
Irish Times Webcast - 1:15 7/12/99
Glen of the Downs tree cutting begins 1.15 p.m. Wicklow County Council has begun cutting trees at the Glen of the Downs, where a controversial dual-carriageway is to be built. So far there has been no trouble between the Council and eco-warrior protesters. However, to date only the west side of the Glen is being cut down; it is the west side - where most of the protesters still remain - that is expected to the scene of most trouble between the eco-warriors and Council workers. The garda does have a presence in the Glen, but a spokesman said there had not been trouble yet. Eco-warriors have said that they fear they will be forcibly removed from the site.
Last week, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the environmentalists over plans by Wicklow County Council to build a dual-carriageway through the Glen of the Downs. Five Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected the appeal, allowing the project to go ahead.