ECHR ruling and climate crisis

Democracy or rule by judges?

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – In his comments on the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and Others v Switzerland, Ray Bassett suggests that the decision of the court is a long way distant from the principles espoused by the original framers and that the court could be damaged by judicial overreach (“European Court of Human Rights decision on climate case and judicial overreach”, Letters, April 18th).

Dr Bassett also states that the challenges of climate change are best left up to the democratically elected governments; this was actually the position of the Irish Government in its intervention on this particular case.

To suggest that the problems associated with climate change should be left to national governments would actually be a backward step when the European Court of Human Rights has evaluated this case taking into account international agreements and scientific data.

The court found that the women did not have access to justice in Switzerland and that Switzerland did not have a strategy to reduce emissions.


The court found that keeping global heating to 1.5 Celsius is a key part of protecting human rights.

It should be remembered also that the court established many years ago that examination of cases should be undertaken in the light of present day conditions, of paramount importance in this case.

Seán MacBride, who played an important role in drafting the European Convention for Human Rights and who signed it on behalf of Ireland on November 4th, 1950, regarded the convention as one of the greatest steps forward in the struggle for human rights.

This judgment goes a long way in consolidating that view. – Yours, etc,


Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Dr Ray Bassett’s assertion the the European Court of Human Right’s judicial overreach in the recent Swiss case may have planted the seeds of its own destruction is correct.

Judicial activism has been steadily worsening for 50 years, and on present showing, the prognosis is bleak.

Younger generations of lawyers from about the 1970s onward have completely abandoned the ancient legal maxim that judges declare the law, they do not make it, and have consistently substituted their own ideologies for the wills of elected parliaments.

This is an untenable situation and is paralysing societies across Europe.

As things stand, no political party, however radical their agenda might be, can make any changes upon election, regardless of how much public support they have, unless they are prepared first to clear out the benches of activist judges.

This in itself is a very dicey move for any democratic society, but it’s what things are coming to.

Either we have democracy, or we have rule by judges. Place your bets. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Ray Bassett, who recommends “leaving the challenges of climate change up to the democratically elected governments”, may enjoy reading the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 which expressly states that “no remedy or relief by way of damages or compensation is available with respect to, or arising out of any failure, of whatever kind, to comply with any provision of this Act or any obligation or duty created thereunder”(Section 2A).

Is he suggesting leaving these incredibly important climate change challenges up to elected governments who have no sanctions if they fail?

The European Convention on Human Rights serves us all. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.