European Court of Justice to hear first case in Irish

Case concerns judge’s finding that State failed to properly implement a European Directive

The European Court of Justice will, for the first time since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, hear a case conducted in Irish.

The European Court of Justice will, for the first time since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, hear a case conducted in Irish.

 

The European Court of Justice will, for the first time since Ireland joined the EU in 1973, hear a case conducted in Irish.

The High Court’s Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh decided this week to refer issues to the ECJ arising from her finding that regulations requiring certain information in packaging of animal health products to be in English only, rather than Irish and English, amounts to a State failure to properly implement a European Directive.

She made that finding in a partial judgment last July but deferred making orders because another European Directive is due to come into effect in 2022 which will allow the State choose between packaging in Irish or English.

The case, which was heard in Irish, returned before her on Thursday when, after hearing submissions, she said she intended to refer issues to the ECJ. The referral concerns whether a court of a member state has discretion in judicial review cases to refuse to grant relief where the rights in question come from EU law.

It arises because, in common law countries, such as Ireland and England, judges have a broad discretion in deciding cases but in the mainland European civil law tradition, they do not.

The proceedings were brought by Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha, of Maigh Cuillinn, Gaillimh, represented by Seamas O Tuatháil SC and Dáithi Mac Carthaigh, instructed by solicitors O Cearbhaill & Co, Galway, against the Minister for Agriculture and the State.

He argued regulations made by the Minister between 2007 and 2014 - the EC (Animal Remedies) Regulations 2007-2014 - did not properly transpose the relevant Directive, 2001/82/CE.

He argued the Directive requires, in the case of veterinary medicinal products put on the market here, the appropriate information on package leaflets and packaging must be in the official languages of the State - Irish and English.

The State argued there would be significant practical and adverse consequences if the relevant information had to be in Irish as well as English.

It claimed many animal health products sold here are manufactured in England and forcing bilingual labelling would impact on a large number of veterinary products and on products across the entire agricultural market.

Last July, Ms Justice Ni Raifeartaigh concluded the State had not properly transposed the Directive because the regulations provide the information is given in English only and the Directive is “clear and unambiguous” that the information must be in the official languages.

Noting that a new Directive, to apply from 2022, means the State will have the choice of using Irish or English, she said the time in between could mean requiring a change in packaging would be “futile” and that raised issues whether the court had discretion in this matter.