Thursday, 29 April 2021
National Marine Planning Framework: Motion
It is the other way around. The disgraceful way in which this motion is being rushed through brings the whole Oireachtas process into disrepute. Legal advice was sought by the housing committee on section 73(2) of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018. It states the Minister shall "have regard to any resolution, report or recommendation of any committee of [the] Houses of the Oireachtas". The Oireachtas was not alerted to the fact that the Minister “shall” have regard to recommendations from any committee of both Houses. I believe that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action was also trying to do something in relation to this plan. The motion was rushed through the Seanad last week in a clandestine manner. The way in which the Government is attempting to rush the motion through without proper process, scrutiny or recommendations is completely reckless and will lead to legal challenges down the line.
Why can this Government never have foresight? I have said before that it is disheartening to work within such a reactive system. That is the problem.
Earlier this week, the "Echo Chamber" podcast brought us voices we needed to hear on this matter when it hosted a panel with representatives from NGOs. How did it come about that marine protected areas, MPAs, are not even included in the plan? We had set a target that 10% of our seas would be MPAs by 2020, increasing to 30% by 2030. Guess what? It is 2021 and just 2.3% of our seas are MPAs. The Department's advisory group's report, Expanding Ireland's Marine Protected Area Network, is open for public consultation until Friday, 30 July 2021. The website states: "Informed by these steps and the resulting information, the Department intends to begin developing legislation on the identification, designation and management of MPAs later in 2021." How can these matters be worked on separately? It makes absolutely no sense.
I thank the Irish Wildlife Trust for hosting the first town hall meeting on MPAs yesterday and for choosing to kick off the series in Donegal. We have a lot of dedicated activists and groups who want the best and to highlight our beautiful country. It is also telling that fishermen were not consulted on the matter. The people who work at sea and use it to earn a living were not even consulted on what is being proposed.
The excuse that we are late for transposition of the EU directive does not hold water - pun intended. EU Directive 2014/89/EU was adopted in 2014 by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. This regulation was originally transposed in 2016 and then repealed and replaced in October 2018. The marine spatial plan was supposed to be in place by March 2021. This has been in the pipeline for years. We are asking for a few weeks to undertake proper scrutiny and make recommendations. A few weeks will not make a difference to the EU but will make a significant difference to the future of our marine estate. The matter is far too important to ignore.