Seanad debates

Friday, 12 February 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Natural Heritage Areas

10:30 am

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Acting Chairperson and I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, for being here to discuss the Curragh of Kildare, which is a unique and special place, both to those of us from Kildare who live close to the Curragh and people throughout the country. Many people pass it on a daily and a weekly basis and have the opportunity to see our lovely lands.

The Curragh needs very little introduction because it is very much part of our Irish psyche and is featured prominently in our history and culture. There are many aspects to the Curragh, including its distinct ecological habitat with the flora and the fauna. I have been privileged to go on many walks around the Curragh with experts such as Gay Brabazon and Karen Tyrell, who taught me a great deal about what I need to value in my own area. There is a very strong military history. We have a wonderful museum thanks to Mario Corrigan and James Durney.I invite the Minister of State and anybody who is interested to come and see it when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. Of course there is the connection with St. Brigid, which I spoke about in the House last week, and there is a very important equestrian element in the area, with the Curragh racecourse and all the trainers and breeders located close to the Curragh. We should not forget about the sheep or the film "Braveheart", which was filmed there.

There are two aspects of the Curragh I will mention. One relates to the Department. Currently, we have a proposed natural heritage area for habitat and species. The site code is 000392. It is very important so when will we have the news that this will be announced as a natural heritage area? The Curragh is such an important site that we really should be aiming to having UNESCO protection for it. This is just one step we need to take. At present, the Curragh does not have the adequate or appropriate protection that it needs.

The other question relates to the management of the Curragh. There is quite a large movement of people around the Curragh at any given time with the equestrian, military and the very well-known golf club activities, as well as the movement of sheep. The Curragh has been a boon during Covid-19. It is wonderful to see so many people out enjoying the Curragh and its environs. However, this raises again issues that have always been there. There is no adequate parking, for example. Currently, there are problems arising from where cars are being parked and grass needs to be reseeded. There should be appropriate parking and signage in a discrete way. There is so much to learn about the Curragh.

I introduced a Curragh of Kildare Bill when I was in the Dáil relating to illegal encampment and dumping. The problem is that currently there are two caravans and one tent there. We are going from the military management to Kildare County Council to the Garda and each of them is passing the buck. We absolutely need to have strong management, which is not happening. We cannot have illegal encampments and illegal disposal of waste on the Curragh. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.


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