Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht): Statements
Josepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
I agree with some of the Deputy's points and do not agree with others. We have done a huge amount over the last number of years. I have been in this Department for two and a half years and we have significantly increased the funding. Primarily, what the Deputy spoke about is biodiversity and species, really. We have the national biodiversity action plan, which commenced in 2017 and will conclude in 2021. There will be an opportunity at that stage to perhaps draft another biodiversity action plan. It is based on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the overarching international agreement which underpins the global biodiversity framework. My Department is the lead authority for that biodiversity action plan but we work with other stakeholders as well. It is the third one and it is an all-of-Government document. The progress is monitored through the biodiversity working group, which meets twice a year, and the independent advisory group, the Biodiversity Forum.
I think the Deputy or perhaps Deputy Farrell mentioned local biodiversity projects. We have given €2 million over three years to local authorities. We have a partnership with the Community Foundation of Ireland in terms of 56 projects that it was working on last year. My Department gave €100,000 towards that. We also have the heritage plan, the strategy of which I launched in November 2018. It is now out for public consultation. This will be an all-encompassing heritage plan. We can make it as ambitious as we can, including from a practical perspective. It is so important when we are talking about biodiversity, and certainly from my experience, that we bring people with us. It is often the smallest projects that really make such a difference.
It is about getting communities involved. A number of Deputies today said that they developed green fingers over recent weeks and that they have really taken an interest in biodiversity in a way they had not before. Deputy Noonan's comments on species are important, as is the status of protected habitats and species, which I am acutely aware of. In 2019 I published a third report on the assessment of the status of habitats and species that Ireland is required to protect under the EU habitats directive. They make up much of our mountains, lakes and coasts, our fresh waters and our seas and are the large part of our territory and heritage. The report is based on a substantial body of scientific work that has been carried out over the past six years. Overall, the picture of the plant and animal species is substantially better with more than 70% stable or increasing mainly because Ireland is the stronghold for many of the listed species. It is also encouraging that a wide range of species from whales to tiny plants have healthy populations and prospects. Some species, however, such as freshwater pearl mussel are still in trouble. We have prepared a priority action framework up to 2027, which we are currently looking at. This identifies the financing needs and priorities that need to be dealt with. They are directly linked to the specific conservation measures that are encompassed in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.