Lecturer – Environmental Legislation | Planning & Risk Management

Vincent Salafia, B.A., J.D., LL.M. (TCD)  – Lecturer in Environmental Legislation and Planning and Risk Management. Lectured in the Management School – Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) as part of the MSc in Environmental Management program (2009-2013). Member of the Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT). He was a founder of TaraWatch, that campaigned against the M3 motorway at the Hill of Tara, a founder of Save Newgrange, that successfully challenged the routing of the Slane bypass near the  Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

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Paper presented at the 3rd Yale/UNITAR Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy


I was honoured to be accepted to present a conference paper at the 3rd Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy, held at Yale University Law School and School of Forestry, 5-7 September 2014. The event was organised under the UNITAR-Yale Environment & Democracy Initiative by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in partnership with: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Professor John Knox, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, provided the keynote presentation, I got to speak to him one on one, regarding the right to natural resources, and Ireland’s Convention on the Constitution.

The conference brought together more than 150 scholars and policy experts to discuss state-of-the-art knowledge concerning  the nexus of human rights and the environment

1. Constitutional Environmental Rights: A Driver for Environmental Policy Making?
2. Human Rights and Environmental Justice: Cases from Countries and the Field
3. Procedural Environmental Rights: Why and How Do They Matter?
4. Human Rights, Environment, and Corporate Responsibility
5. Effective Participation of Civil Society and Vulnerable Groups
6. Environmental Rights, Post-2015 Development, and the Future Climate Regime

The title of my paper was A Constitutional Equation for Sustainable Development: Constitutionalising Economic, Social and Natural Resource Rights and the Public Trust Doctrine in Ireland, and can be downloaded from the Yale UNITAR 2014 conference web site.  My paper was given in Session 1: Taking Stock of State-of-the-Art Knowledge on the Human Rights-Environment Interface. It addressed Topic 1: Constitutional Environmental Rights: A Driver for Environmental Policy-Making?

The paper gives the history of the fundamental human right to natural resources, that had been enshrined in Article 11, in the Fundamental Rights section of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann), from 1922 until the adoption of the 1937 Constitution, (Bunreacht na hÉireann). It also outlines how a referendum on the reinstatement of the fundamental right to natural resources, in conjunction with social and economic rights, could create a constitutional equation for sustainable development. It would also lead to the adoption of the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD), i.e., that the public natural resources belong to the people of Ireland, and that the State is subject to the fiduciary duties of a trustee, in relation to those resources, which places real limits on its ability to privatise public natural resources, that are enforceable by the the beneficiaries, the public. The paper got a good response, and I received a number of questions, during panel discussions, in relation to the issues raised.

According to the organisers: “The outcomes and conclusions of the Conference are expected to inform:

  1. the discussion on sustainable development goals and a post-2015 development agenda by the 69th UN General Assembly in 2014/2015;
  2. the negotiation of a new climate change regime by the end of 2015 under the UNFCCC;
  3. the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and
  4. the 2015 report of the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment whose mandate was initiated by the Human Rights Council in 2012.


“A Constitutional Equation for Sustainable Development; Constitutionalising Social, Economic and Natural Resource Rights, and the Public Trust Doctrine, in Ireland.”

Constitutionalisation has been a prerequisite for sustainable development since its very inception. The 1980 World Conservation Strategy stated: “Ideally, a commitment to conserve the country’s living resources should be incorporated in the constitution or other appropriate legal instrument.” This case study on Ireland formulates a constitutional equation for achieving the policy goal of sustainable development within the context of the Ireland’s current Convention on the Constitution, which has recommended making social and economic rights justiciable. The study concludes that constitutionalization of sustainable development in Ireland, by combining social, economic and environmental rights and duties, is necessary to meet international human rights and environmental obligations. Collectively, these rights equate to ‘the right to sustainable development’, which the 1992 UNFCCC identified, but has yet to be defined or fulfilled.

State duties are to be imposed by constitutionalising the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) in Ireland. An historical analysis shows: how the first draft of the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State said, “Dáil Éireann (Parliament) shall regulate and control the same (natural resources) as trustees of the people of Ireland”; how rights to natural resources were enumerated within “fundamental rights”; how these rights were removed in the 1937 Constitution; and, how this can be remedied. State duties and procedural and substantive rights associated the American and Indian PTD are compared with those of sustainable development; contributing to knowledge by showing they are almost identical.


Blumm, Michael C. and Guthrie, Rachel D. 2012. “Internationalizing the Public Trust Doctrine: Natural Law and Constitutional and Statutory Approaches to Fulifilling the Saxion Vision.” University of California, Davis, Law Reivew. 45: 741-808.

Farrell, Brian. 1970. “The Drafting of the Constitution of the Irish Free State: I,” The Irish Jurist. 5: 115-140.

Hogan, Hon. Gerard. 2012. Origins of the Irish Constitution 1928-41. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.

Sax, Joseph L. 1970. “The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention.” Michigan Law Review. 68: 471–566.

Wood, Mary Christina. 2014. “Atmospheric Trust Litigation: Defining Sovereign Obligations In Climate Recovery,” Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. http://www.fletcherforum.org/2014/03/27/wood/

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Book Launch of “Own Our Oil – The Fight for Irish Economic Freedom” – Today at the Royal Dublin Society

OOOFinalI am pleased to announce that the book, Own Our Oil: The Fight for Irish Economic Freedom, published by Liberties Press, Dublin, was launched today at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). The book is edited by economist, Eddie Hobbs, on behalf of the Irish NGO of the same name – Own Our Oil.

The book contains a chapter I was invited to contribute, entitled, ‘Resource Nationalism and the Public Trust Doctrine: A Constitutional Solution to Ireland’s Inequitable Oil and Gas Regime’.  An summarised copy of the book is now available for download from Own Our Oil – and the full version of the book can also be downloaded for free from Trinity College Dublin. The following is the description, from the Liberties Press web site:

Own Our Oil: The Fight for Irish Economic Freedom is an anthology of essays that packs a punch. The team of multidisciplinary writers led by Eddie Hobbs describe how Ireland’s leaders have, over several decades, built a system that has been excessively generous to the oil and gas industry abroad. To remedy this, Hobbs and his team propose a new approach to regulate and tax this lucrative industry, so that Ireland can benefit from Irish resources.

Seeking to emulate the Norwegian model of resource management, the book shows how we, as Irish citizens, can become empowered and regain control of our natural resources, demand a fair share of the profits and wisely allocate our gains. Own Our Oil: The Fight for Economic Freedom offers readers information on the latest developments in the international oil and gas arena and the potential economic upside of Ireland changing course and ‘getting it right’. This book is armed with a strong message,

When the herd stands together, the lion lies down hungry! Buy this book, sign it, pass it on!


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Evening Herald: Tomb discovery sparks ‘national monument’ calls


Tomb discovery sparks ‘national monument’ calls

The Evening Herald | 10 September 2013

ARCHAEOLOGISTS who discovered a new passage tomb near Newgrange want it declared a national monument. Using light detection and ranging imaging known as LiDAR, an underground passageway and several other previously detected features have been discovered near the river Boyne, Co. Meath, on private land southwest of Newgrange. The LiDAR imagery showed a mound with a circular enclosure, with further work involving new technologies, known as magnetic radiometry and resisitivity, unveiled a definite passage, leading northeast out of the tomb.

It is the first discovery to be made without any archaeological digging, instead being found through use of LiDAR and “other ground-probing techniques.” The archaeologists who made the discovery, led by Kevin barton, are calling on the Minister for Heritage, Jimmy Deenihan, to declare the site a national monument. Because the new monument is on private land, the team of archaeologists need the Minister to do this as without Government designations, an excavation would be impossible. In order to fully understand the results of the LiDAR study, which was performed in and around the Bru na Boinne UNESCO Heritage site, archaeologists feel a fully comprehensive excavation would be necessary.

Activist group ‘Save Newgrange‘ are backing the request to the minister as well as requesting that Meath County Council include the findings in the Management Pan for the World Heritage Site. Vincent Salafia, spokesperson with Save Newgrange says that there is an obligation to allow the excavation of the site, as well as a council obligation to include findings in the management plan.

“With this exciting discovery, the onus is on the Minister to obey the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and fully protect the site. The State is under a duty to fully investigate the entire World Heritage Site, and to give the monuments the highest legal protection possible, which is national monument designation under the National Monuments Act,” he said.

The results of a full scale excavation could lead to an expansion of Newgrange and could halt any further plans for the N2 bypass of the site, which would be critical if there were more request from local council to build the motorway. In 2012, An Bord Pleanala refused an application for the bypass because of the proximity to to the monument. Local politicians, however, are still hoping to procure a bypass rather than the current HGV ban that is in place.

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