Detailed proposals to solve Mullaghmore controversy available to public today
PROPOSALS to solve the Mullaghmore controversy will be subject to a full and open process of consultation over the next 12 weeks, according to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
Mr Higgins said the proposals, comprising three volumes as well as an executive summary, would be available for public consultation from today.
The draft plan proposes dispersing visitor facilities and says there is no need to develop a major interpretative centre at the site. But it suggests that the site could be used to provide staff accommodation and facilities such as toilets and car parking.
"I expect that process will be completed about May 15th, and then at that stage we can take decisions. But it will be on the basis of everyone having had a chance to look at what the management report is suggesting," Mr Higgins said.
Meanwhile, the proposals were viewed with a mixture of cautious approval and suspicion yesterday by people involved in the controversy for the past five years.
The Burren Action Group (BAG), whose campaign against the scheme forced the Government to abandon it last March, had no immediate official comment on the latest proposals and" was meeting last night to consider them. However, a reliable source said that, while BAG welcomed the "positive elements" in the report, it was chary about the recommendation for scaled down development on the Mullaghmore site incorporating "basic interpretation material" for visitors.
"That recommendation could be the thin end of the wedge that would eventually lead to an interpretative centre going up in Mullaghmore despite the Government's announcement that it had abandoned such a scheme," the source said.
"If that completely unnecessary proposal had been omitted, the new plan would probably satisfy everybody with its concept of dispersing visitors among smaller centres in villages around the Burren."
Last July BAG took a High Court action against the Office of Public Works, seeking to have all the work done so far at Mullaghmore dismantled on the grounds that it had already been declared illegal by the courts.
The group's action was spurred by what it claimed was the Government's failure to restore Mullaghmore to its natural state.
Earlier this week the case was further adjourned to July to allow public discussion of the latest plan and a final decision on it by Mr Higgins.
The Burren National Park Support Association, which has favoured the Mullaghmore interpretative centre, was also meeting last night to consider the proposals.
Mr Tom Burke, of Corofin, a Co Clare councillor and member of the association, said he would neither condemn nor support Mr Higgins until he knew more of what the Minister had in mind.
"We would be very disappointed if he comes up with a diminished project to replace the Mullaghmore scheme which would have given Ireland one of its finest national parks and would be of very great economic benefit to this area," he said.
"Originally the Minister seemed determined to clear away the Mullaghmore site, but under the new plans he may allow certain development there after all. We'll just have to wait and see.
The chairman of BAG, Father John O'Donoghue, said: "For the first time in five years of conflict there is an opportunity for people to arrive at a consensus on this issue. The divisions that once were there are beginning to fade away, and we can now hope that all the communities in the Burren will come closer together in final agreement on what should be done."