Rights of Nature on the Island of Ireland: Scoping a Novel Research Agenda

In June 2021 Derry City and Strabane District Council adopted a pioneering motion on the ‘rights of nature’ (RoN). Within days, a similar motion was adopted by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, followed by Donegal County Council in December 2021. Although local councils lack the legal power to enforce RoN without central governmental approval, the declarations set out pathways for the councils to explore with civil society what RoN might mean for local communities, and how the concept could be expressed across community and corporate plans, development objectives, and other strategic frameworks. Civil society organisations, activists, artists, and academics across the island of Ireland have connected the concept to the island’s history, drawing parallels with traditional folk-lore concepts and highlighting the value of RoN as a means of redressing the environmentally destructive legacies of colonialism, conflict, and the transition from conflict.

Bringing together experts on criminal, reparative and restorative justice responses to environmental harm (Rachel Killean), environmental governance and climate justice (Peter Doran), and human rights, indigenous rights, and RoN (Jérémie Gilbert), this small scoping study aims at developing a novel, collaborative research agenda oriented around the nascent RoN movement on the island of Ireland.