Match Report



The Captain’s warm-up had gone well and so we arrived at the beautiful but enormous Palace of Nations in Geneva with the usual pre-match jitters, but with Pat Swords charging ahead and us in his wake, we found our venue fairly easily and then retired to the Delegates Hall to check out the opposition and plan any last-minute strategy.


The Delegates Hall is a beautiful high-ceilinged lounge with stunning frescoes on the wall, and was immediately a calming influence.



The opposition was in the other corner, still looking grim, and were fielding their strongest team, and seemingly employing a 1-4-3 formation; with a Senior Counsel as forward striker, another Senior Counsel and junior counsel as roving wings, representatives from the State Solicitor’s office, the Department of Energy, and associated lackeys lobbying high balls into the penalty area, whilst in their goal was a representative from the Office of the Attorney-General. Either they were taking us very seriously, or most of them were looking for a few days in the sun around Lake Geneva courtesy of the taxpayer.


Our numbers more or less determined our structure. Pat was up front as forward striker, I was roving defender/striker with instructions to shut down the midfield, and Dave Malone was a back / goalie with instructions to cut down anybody that got through Pat and I, but just be wary of the red card.


The opposing team were squirming from the start because they had walked in with guns blazing, in full adversarial mode. However, the ACCC proceedings are run in true European fashion, based on civil law principles, where the Committee clearly had some completed ideas, and were really there to ask us clarifying questions, rather than asking us to convince them of anything.


One thing that surprised us a lot was that for such a formidable team of heavyweights, with more legal brains milling around than at the Law Library Banquet, the opposing team had not considered a fairly obvious point – the presence of Dr Aine Ryall on the Committee.


In the introduction and formalities stage, Aine had made it clear that she was from Ireland, that she had written extensively (and critically) on the implementation of Aarhus in Ireland, and had also served on the review of the ABP,  which led to that lengthy list of recommendations. The Chairperson very properly asked if there were any objections?


It was one of the first things we had talked about when we were preparing, and we were more than happy that Aine remained on the Committee.  She will be an invaluable source of facts to the other Committee members about the true state of things in Ireland as she is by far and away the leading Irish authority on Aarhus.


However, when the Chair asked the government team whether they had any objections to Aine remaining on the Committee to deal with the communication, it was like they were hit with a Beckham Special Curler. There were looks of panic and huddled heads and much buzzing under breath. It was clear they had not anticipated this, which was extraordinary. In true government fashion they kicked for touch and asked if they could make their decision known later.


As they had kicked the ball out (rather wildly and way back in the stands) it was our throw-in.


We started off with me delivering our Opening Statement (see previous blog) which went well and I think made clear which points we were pursuing. This was not about the merits of wind energy as such, it was about procedure and public participation. It was gratifying to see a number of Committee members bobbing along with the delivery – not quite a Mexican Wave, but the crowd was certainly warming up and baying for a goal.


The State gave a rather stoic and low-key response, and it was clear that they were hoping for a goal-less draw, with minimal damage to their cause, and maybe a better result for the home game. They adopted a very tight defence structure, with a lot of passing the ball back to the keeper, who got rid of it as quickly as possible to one of the lackeys.


The morning session went very well, with a number of our volleys finding the back of the net, and a few of their team looking like they were praying to be substituted. To be fair, the leading Senior Counsel was earning her fee, as she was receiving poor service from her midfield, but was still banging enough our way to keep our defence busy.


Pat was Messi-esque:  showing equal skill with both feet, and kicking them back harder than they were coming at us. I caught them a few times with the off-side trap, especially when they raised the spurious argument that we couldn’t talk about Pat’s High Court case because it was still with the judge (four years later) and everything was “sub-judice”. That argument got the treatment it deserved – an elbow in the face as we went up for the high ball. Shame on the Attorney-General for being a party to that nonsense.


The afternoon session was even better, as it was now the turn of the Committee members to come off the bench and ask some very pointed questions, which were aimed primarily at the State, with us pretty much sitting back and watching the blood-letting.


We finished at 4.00, exhausted, but feeling good and looking forward to the next round. A relaxing pint in very pleasant surroundings on the banks of the Rhine was most welcome. Thanks very much to Val Martin and the gang for the tasty bite that we had later.




(This was written whilst travelling and in anticipation of Ireland’s crucial match this afternoon. A more serious report will follow – I promise!)



About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from full-time practice in 2002 to take up a lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). His current interest is the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
This entry was posted in EIA Directive 2014/52/EU, EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC, Pat Swords, Planning and Development Act 2000; guidelines; directives; Sections 28 & 29, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters; Aarhus Convention; Aarhus Treaty, The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Match Report

  1. Roderic Jamieson says:

    Well done Neil and Pat .

    Best of luck in the next round .. we are counting on you !


    Roderic Jamieson

    On Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 10:39 AM, The Law is my Oyster wrote:

    > Neil van Dokkum posted: ” The Captain’s warm-up had gone well and so we > arrived at the beautiful but enormous Palace of Nations in Geneva with the > usual pre-match jitters, but with Pat Swords charging ahead and us in his > wake, we found our venue fairly easily and then re” >

  2. Thanks for the update, Neil. They may not be chanting and waving flags but there’s huge support for “team sustainable development ” back home!! I’m stunned they didn’t know about Aine Ryall..goes to show the bubble they are in.

  3. Owen M says:

    Great work all. It will all pay off eventually.

    As Jack Charlton said “Keep em under pressure”

  4. Pingback: Match Report | ajmarciniak

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