THE potential of the scenic and geologially unique Gearagh area of north west Cork to should not be overlooked by those tasked with putting together a management plan.
This comment was made recently by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada following a meeting with management at the nearby Macroom E enterprise centre.
‘The Gearagh is a unique and ecologically important area of outstanding beauty and diversity. We have a duty to protect this site as part of the natural heritage of Ireland and of the planet,’ she said. ‘Statutory protections already exist for the unique animal and plant life in the area and I have welcomed the belated moves by the ESB, as majority landowner, to put in place a management plan for this Special Area of Conservation.’
Ms Ní Ríada believes that the management plan must also take into account the views of the local communities, and must be ‘comprehensive’ and ‘farsighted’ in its approach. ‘We need to take a holistic look at the protection of the Gearagh and ensure that its value as a community amenity, site for research and education, and area of local historical importance cannot be overlooked,’ she said.
‘There is huge opportunity for the development of eco-tourism in the area, centred on the Gearagh and surrounding areas. Many academics have spoken of the wealth of opportunity for research and study in the Gearagh for both our own universities and colleges, and for further afield,’ she added.
The meeting in Macroom E is part of a wider process of consultation on the future of the Gearagh that the MEP Is undertaking at the moment. ‘It was engaging and refreshing to come to a forward-thinking and dynamic social enterprise, located in the heart of the Lee Valley, to discuss how the development of enterprise in the area and the conversation of the Gearagh can be achieved with creativity, hard work, and a willingness to think outside the box,’ she said afterwards.
And she pledged to meet with the ESB and State agencies in the weeks ahead to make the point that the management plan for the Gearagh must be visionary, multi-faceted and community based.