" Ireland is flouting European Union rules by turning a blind eye to waste dumping, the EU's highest court ruled on Tuesday, in the latest broadside on the country's poor environmental record.
"Irish authorities have tolerated unauthorised activities in numerous places in Ireland, often over long periods," the European Court of Justice said in a statement. "Such a failure to fulfil obligations is general and persistent in nature."
The country, which this year topped an EU list of environmental offenders, is in breach of a 20-year-old directive requiring states to dispose of waste without risking public health or the environment for not regulating landfill sites properly.
"The permit procedure was slow, taking 808 days on average and sometimes almost four years, and there was a lack of appropriate measures for ensuring that facilities were promptly made subject to the domestic system finally set up," the court said.
The European Commission received a dozen complaints between 1997 and 2000 before filing a general complaint in 2001 that Ireland was failing to enforce the law.
The ruling follows news this month that the EU executive will also take Ireland to court over bad smells from sewage plants, including a state-of-the-art treatment works in Dublin where foul odours have attracted widespread media coverage.
The Commission is also upset with the country's failure to properly assess the damage being done to its environment. It has said it will send the government a warning letter for not complying with a ruling on substances that harm the ozone.
Ireland started 2005 at the top of an EU black-list of countries facing legal action over environmental offences after the European Commission said it would have to answer eight charges including breaches of water and air pollution rules.