Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
As a person new to the House, I would like to know whether it is normal practice that amendment deadlines fall prior to our receiving the substantiated text of a Bill, as is the case with the Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020 that is coming before the House on Friday. If it is, it seems a very bizarre way to do business.
I want to raise the issue of the mid-Shannon wilderness park in County Longford. In 2013, the senior planner in Longford County Council brought forward a detailed proposal for a wilderness park to provide for a just transition for Bord na Móna workers and create much-needed jobs in the tourism industry providing trails and amenities linking up the counties of Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath and right through to Dublin via the Royal Canal. The proposal was an important step in addressing the biodiversity crisis we have in this country. Whooper swans, lapwings, curlews and golden plovers are already present at the site. In addition, a wilderness park would stabilise the emissions on the degraded peatlands and contribute to flood relief.
However, Bord na Móna has instead decided to push ahead with a wind farm on the site. Given that the proposed wilderness park is referenced in the national peatlands strategy and only last week we had the Minister with responsibility for climate action, Deputy Eamon Ryan, announcing funding to rehabilitate 33,000 ha of Bord na Móna peatlands, it beggars belief that this wind farm is going ahead. I have written to both the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and his colleague, the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin - it is a shame the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, is not here today - to ask how the decision to build a wind farm on the site is in keeping with the national peatlands strategy, particularly actions Nos. A9 and A12 of that strategy which refer specifically to harnessing the potential of peatlands to contribute to both our environmental and ecological wealth, with a particular emphasis on mitigating carbon losses, and the potential to develop peatlands to bring tourism and recreation attractions to the midlands and west. I hope that when the Minister, Deputy Ryan, comes before the House again, he will address the contradictions in policy of using public money to rehabilitate Bord na Móna peatlands while the organisation itself appears to be dead set on undoing the existing rehabilitation projects.