As the environment is a diffuse interest, it does not fit naturally within the framework that is traditionally recognised by the law for the protection of individual rights. Ireland’s environmental law-enforcement landscape is currently lacking in several areas in relation to both the formal and informal enforcement mechanisms available to citizens. In both law and practice, private individuals and NGOs are inclined to have a secondary role in the regulation of environmental matters, as compared to public authorities. There is considerable acknowledgement by the Irish legislature that individuals or groups can have an interest in the environment, despite the more prominent role played by the regulatory authorities in this area and the adjustments that have been made to deal with problems of legal standing and cost. Existing tools for citizen enforcement are, however, hampered by issues of accessibility and cost. One of the longstanding lacunae in the area of access to environmental justice is the lack of a procedural mechanism to enable multi-party action (MPA) for mass harm. Such actions could be similar to the US ‘class action’ type lawsuit. The absence of such a mechanism impedes citizens’ access to justice for environmental mass harm in Ireland. MPAs, by enabling victims of mass harm to combine their legal actions, are

a key tool in achieving the overall objectives of expanding access to justice, procedural efficiency and fairness. They can enable litigants to overcome many of the impediments facing citizens who take legal actions individually. These themes will be explored throughout this chapter. As other contributions in this volume explore,1 international conventions such as Aarhus2 highlight the

need for access to justice as a key facet of the aim of improving environmental governance in Europe.