Journalist Laura Roddy has won the inaugural Environmental and Climate Reporting Award at this year’s Justice Media Awards presented by the Law Society of Ireland. 

Laura’s story for The Currency, titled From project to planning: What the battle for Belview means for industrial developmentcovered the proposed construction of a new cheese factory in Belview, Co Kilkenny, highlighting the environmental and legal challenges the new building faced and their implications for the community, the dairy industry and government policy. 

2022 is the first year the Justice Media Awards have presented an award in environmental and climate justice reporting, which the Law Society introduced to “recognise the growing importance of media reporting on issues relating to the intersection between equality, human rights, and climate change.”

Laura’s piece explained how the factory then planned at a cost of €150 million, a joint venture between Glanbia Co-op and Dutch food producer Royal A-ware, had become locked in a legal battle with environmental NGO An Taisce following a planning appeals process before An Bord Pleanála (ABP). An Taisce had challenged the factory’s construction, arguing that it would exacerbate the environmental consequences of milk production. The factory’s construction was delayed as An Taisce appealed for planning permission to be overturned all the way to the Supreme Court, where the industrial development finally got the green light. 

Laura Roddy
Laura Roddy

Commenting on the winning article, the judges noted, “this long-form article format provides a detailed explanation into how an An Taisce’s challenge fits into an ongoing trend in Ireland and globally of climate activists’ challenging environmental policy through individual projects.” The judges added: “The journalist includes significant legal content and tackles a story that will likely become more prolific over time. Similar cases will be significant for others in this area going forward.”

The award comes on the day when Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue joined the management of Glanbia and Royal A-Ware to turn the sod on the new cheese factory. All speakers at the event highlighted the planning, legal and environmental issues covered in Laura’s story last year.

An Taisce’s stance on the factory pitted it against the government at the beginning of last year, when Taoiseach Micheál Martin asked the NGO not to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. 

The site of the future plant is now under construction, with large-scale clearing and levelling underway. Stay tuned to The Currency for more coverage of the development and its policy implications.