FAIR dues to Holly Cairns, Cork South West’s shining new TD for the Social Democrats (who dey?) and to Cllr Ross O’Connell, wave and tide researcher at UCC. The two politicos have put together a real whiz-dinger of a document regarding the National Marine Planning Framework Consultation Draft.
The aforementioned ‘draft’ or plan, abbreviated to NMPF for obvious reasons, applies to a broad range of marine activities such as aquaculture, offshore renewable energy, sea fisheries and tourism, and is intended to promote an efficient use of resources.
According to Minister of Housing Eoghan Murphy and his sidekick, Mini-Minister Damien English (they’re the government gents responsible for the Plan) the intention is ‘to construct a frame-work for management of our seas, and for efficiency in the utilisation of marine resources.’
Included are such fascinating topics as planning policies relating to aquaculture, planning policies relating to fisheries, planning policies relating to ports, planning policies relating to harbours, shipping, telecommunications cables, tourism, safety at sea, sport and recreation, and waste water treatment and disposal. For all we know, there might even be planning policies relating to planning policies!
And, for good measure, the whole planning policy shebang, falls within the remit of the Department of Planning, Housing and Local Government.
So, being the good democrats that they are, Ministers Murphy and English put the Draft Plan out for public consultation and invited submissions.
And in the proposals came. The most outstanding submission was the response from Cork South West Teachta Dála, Ms Holly Cairns, and Councillor Ross O’Connell, who was co-opted to take her place on Cork County Council after the was elected to the Dáil, imaginatively promoting a coastal/marine national park. It was a planning idea that grabbed the attention of Ireland; well, kinda.
Interestingly, neither Minister Murphy nor his ministerial subordinate, Mr English, had made any mention of a national park idea in their plan, so this was a novel initiative.
Indeed, our local politicos, Holly and Ross, played a blinder with their proposal to locate Ireland’s first coastal national park (doubtcha lads!) in West Cork on account of the area’s ‘rich maritime environment.’
Unfortunately, they didn’t tell us what exactly they meant by a ‘rich maritime environment,’ although we acknowledged, of course, the fact that West Cork has numerous bays and peninsulas, including nudist areas, and that its ‘fishing infrastructures and active landscape and seascape’ are second to none.
Unsurprisingly, not everybody was enthused by the so called coastal national park plan which would need new and easier planning legislation. The fear was that a giant national park might jeopardise the plans for other future special zones that might be in the pipeline.
Nor did the politicos revealed the kind of National Park they had in mind. For instance, would it have ‘multiple use zones’? In other words, a geographical layout that could undermine good conservation intentions.
A coastal national park, critics said, would need 20 to 30 years of planning and require a major input from bodies and organisations such as the National Park and Wildlife Services, Inland Fisheries, the Marine Institute, An Taisce, the Wild Life Trust, Wild Bird Conservation groups etc, etc. And, if the national park lacked competently-planned stewardship and protection, scientists and environmentalists might as well throw their hat at it!
Then there’s this conundrum: would such a development be nothing more than what’s described elsewhere as a ‘Paper Park’, whose only value is on paper? What use would the park have if its contribution to the environment, or to biodiversity, were not properly managed or directed?
Or, to put the question another way, what potential economic reward would there be in a culturally-important area if locals were unable to exploit the benefits?
Local kelp farm
Oh, and let’s not overlook the special demand from Ms Cairns and Mr O’Connell that the 10-year kelp cutting licence issued to a Kerry based company should be revoked.
Simon Coveney’s Housing and Planning Department was responsible for granting the licence, which was greeted with Greenie howls of protest in regard to a lack of public consultation, that there was no Environmental Impact Assessment and ‘no adequate notice.’
In simple terms, our local politicos, Holly and Ross, led the vanguard, arguing that there had been a breach of the Aarhus Convention (whatever that was) and that the consequences could drag Ireland before the European Courts of Justice. Wow!
What they didn’t mention, however, was that the kelp harvesting company had met all legal requirements, had done everything by the book, and had given due notice of the development and the consultation process to Bantry garda station. Indeed, the announcement was displayed for 21 days in 2009 and published in this newspaper on December 12th, 2009.
The relevant minister at the time commented that ‘normal public consultation procedures were followed and no objections from members of the public were received.’
Yes, it’s a fact that no consultation with the general public took place but some responsibility for that falls fair and square on the heads of Greenies and their usually strident fellow travellers who, on this occasion, totally ‘missed the boat.’
Nonetheless, Deputy Cairns and Councillor Ross O’Connell now have revived the controversial issue even though the astute observer might interpret the move as a tactical initiative and nothing more than political barnstorming, sure to win a pat on the back from supporters and, at this stage, little else.
And, as with any Greenie-style programme, the development of Ireland’s petroleum resources takes a bashing. As far as our critical politicos are concerned, oil exploration is not only ‘environmentally-regressive but incompatible with climate change commitments.’
They want the phasing out of offshore drilling for oil and gas in order to protect ‘our marine health, tourism, and seafood industries.’
Curiously they don’t allude to the environmental damage done by industrialised fishing, preferring to emphasise the fact that ‘fishing and aquaculture activities must continue to be a vital economic and social driver’ as long as the government prioritises the ‘wellbeing and viability of coastal communities through sustainability, diversification, and shared decision making’ (Gulp! What does all that mean?).
Our assessment? Well, Ms Holly and Mr Ross are definitely enthusiastic, if kinda picky politicos, if you get our drift. But what really impressed us was the way they managed to squeeze quite a bundle of noble aspirations and plans into their 11-page submission to the Minister.
They’re definitely on their way, zooming to the top of the greasy political pole! But whether we’ll be rooting for them ... well, that’s another story!