An Taisce’s legal challenge to the Government’s nitrates action programme (NAP) will be heard by the High Court on Tuesday 12 December.

The NAP will be defended jointly by the Department of Housing and the Department of Agriculture.

Both the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) are in the proceedings as listed parties.

The environmental body is seeking a judicial review of the NAP based on what it describes as nn “undisputed evidence of continuing deterioration of water quality in Ireland, where all the indicators are negative and continuing in a downward direction”.

An Taisce could collapse Ireland’s nitrates derogation if its legal challenge is successful.

Serious concern

This has caused serious concern among dairy farmers and processors, who are already reeling from the cut in the nitrates derogation limits and the impact of that move on cow numbers and milk output.

However, An Taisce has insisted that its actions were not motivated by an anti-farmer bias.

“This legal step may be misrepresented as some form of attack on the farming community. This application is not against people or communities.

"It is targeting misguided legal and regulatory structures that are actively contributing to water pollution and which thus must be challenged,” it claimed.

An Taisce argues that the current NAP is flawed as it lacks both accountability and a rigorous assessment of water quality.

An Taisce is challenging Ireland's nitrates action programme because of what it describes as the "undisputed evidence of continuing deterioration of water quality in Ireland".

The environmental body claimed that the Government’s refusal to take on board its reservations regarding the protection of water quality standards compelled it to take legal action.

“We repeatedly highlighted the scientific evidence which clearly makes the case for more ambitious and far-reaching measures and far more rigorous assessment. We also flagged up the legal weaknesses in the environmental assessments for the NAP,” it added.

“We advocated for a NAP that provides for catchment and site-specific measures and assessment, rather than a programme of general one-size-fits-all measures without accountability,” the environmental body stated.