Thursday, 11 July 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
In the new term I ask that the Leader looks to conduct a debate on Ireland's marine spatial policy. I welcome the recent launch by the Government of a draft marine planning policy statement. The size of our offshore area is ten times the landmass of our island. The Irish continental shelf comprises 220 million acres. As well as being relatively unexplored, we have a very poor spatial planning system with regard to developing offshore renewables, for preserving biodiversity in these ocean waters, and for preserving our marine heritage. As we look towards the sea and we recognise the asset that is there, we also see a lot of shortcomings around the legislation and a lot of work we have to do. We also need a debate so we can be more enlightened and create a bigger conversation about what an asset and what resources we have in the sea.
In that regard I compliment all of the work of Dr. Peter Heffernan and the Marine Institute, which has run the Our Ocean summit and is heavily involved in SeaFest, which has been held in Galway for the past three years and took place in Cork this year. The Leader may be quite familiar with it. Two years ago RTÉ broadcast a three part series "The Deep Atlantic". This used some of the seafaring vessels of the Marine Institute and went out there. The wildlife and the marine life out there is amazing. It would benefit us to conduct a debate such as I have mentioned as we go forward to create a national marine planning framework. We must prioritise the creation of a proper planning and development system for our offshore territory. Sadly, such a system does not exist currently. It means that if we are to develop offshore wind or wave energy, it is highly complicated with different agencies required. It definitely is not an holistic approach.
The Leader might give some consideration to organising such a debate, along with a debate on Mercosur with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the House, which is a priority. I had mentioned this a few days ago and I am aware that colleagues have also asked for this.