Minister insists there has been ‘robust’ process to consider marine framework
Strategy aims to turn 30% of Irish waters into protected areas, and also allow for major wind farm projects
Taking the seabed into account, “Ireland is one of the largest countries in the EU, and our coastline of 7,500km is longer than that of many of our European counterparts”. Photograph: Getty Images
A Minister has insisted there has been a “robust” process over four years to consider the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) after trenchant opposition criticism of a guillotined debate.
Minister of State Peter Burke told the Dáil he heard the issues causing “frustration” in the plan that paves the way for the development of wind farms and aims to turn 30 per cent of Irish waters into marine protected areas by 2030.
However, he insisted “everyone had an opportunity to engage” with the Department of Planning and Local Government and its expert advisory group.
The Government should have implemented the framework by the end of last month under an EU directive.
The strategy sets out the plan for the management of Irish territorial waters over the next 20 years. Mr Burke said it represented a “seismic change” in the management of Ireland’s maritime area which is seven times Ireland’s landmass.
Taking the seabed into account, “Ireland is one of the largest countries in the EU, and our coastline of 7,500km is longer than that of many of our European counterparts”, he said.
Sinn Féin spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said it was disgraceful that a plan that “will shape the future of our marine” had only two hours of committee debate and 55 minutes in the Dáil. He said the plan “falls down” in a number of areas, including the provision for marine protected areas.
He said the legislation had not even been drafted, and it would take two to three years before these areas were designated.
In the meantime, Mr Ó Broin claimed, “applications for very large, industrial-sized, offshore wind farms will be processed under this plan”. They will be “blind” to the impact of wind energy on the marine environment.
Labour’s Duncan Smith said much more offshore energy would be required and “that is going to have a big impact on communities”.
He said several marine Bills were expected but they would not be “robust” on offshore energy if elements such as the laying of cables on the seabed have already taken place. “The horse should not have bolted from this stable, but our worry is that it already has.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett warned that the critical development of renewable energy was effectively “an excuse to hand over large stretches of the marine environment to private companies interested in profiting from that”.
He claimed private developers had “got hold of the Codling Bank riding roughshod over fishermen, and refusing to properly consult them as they do their surveys”.
Independent TD Verona Murphy said “there has been no shortage of shoddy, poorly thought-out legislation passed through this House in the past 14 months” through lack of debate and scrutiny. “The Government is attempting to do the same thing with this motion.”