What is a judicial review?

The government website citizensinformation.ie states that ‘the High Court has a power or “jurisdiction” called “judicial review”. Judicial review is a way for the High Court to supervise the lower courts, tribunals and other administrative bodies to ensure that they make their decisions properly and in accordance with the law. Judicial review is primarily concerned with the decision-making process rather than with the substance of the decision. There is, however, a limited scope for review of the substance of a decision as well. ”  The site goes on to explain that there are areas of “public decision-making which have been singled out by the Oireachtas” as being of particular policy concern. These include asylum, pollution control and planning.

So in the case of Bulloch Harbour Preservation Association, the purpose of a Judicial Review is to consider whether An Bord Pleanala (the administrative body in question) made its decision to grant planning permission for the Western Marine site “properly and in accordance with the law”. If the High Court accepts our application for Judicial Review, they will be looking at the decision making processes in ABP and will not be re-running the merits, or lack thereof, of the planning application by Bartra Capital group. The series of public decisions that took place are:

  • December 2017: Bartra applies for planning permission for the former Western Marine site at Bullock Harbour.
  • February 2018: the planning authority, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, refuses planning permission.
  • March 2018, Bartra appeals this refusal to An Bord Pleanala, the national planning appeals board.
  • May 2019, ABP’s inspector recommends to the board that they uphold the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown refusal.
  • June 2019, An Bord Pleanala grants planning permission. We have been told that they reject the recommendations of their own inspectors in 10-15% of cases

In terms of an actual court hearing, we are looking forward to attending the Judicial Review which would take place in the Four Courts on the quays in Dublin. It’s not the kind of court case where witnesses are called, so we’ll be in the public gallery watching lawyers wade through files. 

This article by Karen Walsh from the Cork Examiner in 2016 provides a good layman’s description of an actual Judicial Review that happened in County Cork.

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