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Q&A: All you need to know about Ireland’s newest national park, Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara

Park is mix of formerly privately owned marine and land sites around Kerry, now under management of National Parks and Wildlife Service

What is the new marine national park?

Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí is Ireland’s eighth national park, and the largest so far, centred around the area of Corca Dhuibhne, Co Kerry.

What sites does it include?

The sites include parts of the mainland, islands and seas. The mainland sites are the Conor Pass; Owenmore river catchment; Mount Brandon and Inch Peninsula, all newly acquired by the State, and Derrynane House, Historic Park and beach, already in control of the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The island sites are Sceilig Michíl, Little Skellig, Puffin Island, State-owned land on Great Blasket Island, An Tiaracht Nature Reserve and Valentia Tetrapod Trackway. The seas include waters around the Blasket Islands, and the Kerry Head Shoals.

Conor pass map

What new protections does the new national park title bring?

None. A spokeswoman for Minister of State for Nature and Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the sites were all already “very heavily designated under European Directives and under national laws” and were protected “under our strongest biodiversity laws”.


So what’s the point of making them into a national park?

It brings the sites, some of which were privately owned, under the management of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

What difference does that make?

While all of the lands were protected under various policies, regulation and designations, not all of these were adhered to and some of the sites are “not in the best possible ecological condition”, Mr Noonan’s spokeswoman said, and require significant restoration. The park label brings with it a commitment from the NPWS to that restoration work. It also being the sites under the NPWS annual budget.

Is that significant?

Well, the NPWS gets an allocation annually as part of the national Budget and as a national park the lands will have access to stable funding on an ongoing basis. The NPWS will also develop a management plan for the park and will allocate staff to the park which should mean its ongoing upkeep is assured.

Will the management plan involve new rules for people using or living in the park?

The management plan will follow closely the designations and protections already in place for the park, but will bring a greater focus on ensuring they are adhered to. The plan will be developed working with the local community and local authority, to ensure the best possible outcomes for the park and a “transformation of the quality of its habitats” the spokeswoman said.