European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Court backs Ireland in ‘Brussels v. mussels’ human rights row

Judges have dismissed a complaint against Ireland from a mussels company, which blamed financial losses on the country’s compliance with EU laws.

The European Court of Human Rights declared on 7 June that the restrictions Ireland imposed on the mussels company were fair and in line with Convention

In its Chamber judgment1 in the case of O’Sullivan McCarthy Mussel Development Ltd v. Ireland (application no. 44460/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights, and no violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention.

The company fishes for immature mussels (mussel seed), and then cultivates and sells them when they are developed, a process which takes two years.

The government temporarily prohibited mussel seed fishing in 2008 in the harbour where the company operates after the Court of Justice of the European Union found Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under two EU environmental directives.

The company thus had no mature mussels to sell in 2010, causing a loss of profit.

The Strasbourg Court observed that the protection of the environment and compliance with the respondent State’s obligations under EU law were both legitimate objectives.

As a commercial operator the company should have been aware that the need to comply with EU rules was likely to impact its business.

Overall, the Court found that the company had not suffered a disproportionate burden due to the government’s actions and that Ireland had ensured a fair balance between the general interests of the community and the protection of individual rights.

There had therefore been no violation of the company’s property rights.

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