Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Defence
Curragh Plains Representative Forum
38. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the progress being made in liaison with Kildare County Council on the development of an overall management plan for the Curragh Plains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9428/19]
As the Deputy may be aware, as the Minister for Defence, I am the custodian and guardian of the Curragh pursuant to the provisions of the Curragh of Kildare Act 1961. I mention this as it is important to bear in mind, as recognised in the aforementioned Act, that the Curragh Plains is a working environment as well as being a place of historical and cultural importance.
The Plains are an important working facility for the Defence Forces, the horse racing industry and sheep owners availing of long established rights of pasture.
As both a working environment and a high value amenity of ecological importance, I am keenly aware of the multiple challenges facing my Department in ensuring the ongoing management of the Curragh Plains.
To this end, my Department has had discussions with Kildare County Council to explore the potential for collaboration on addressing issues and identifying opportunities for the improved management and presentation of the Curragh Plains.
As part of these discussions, it was agreed that a multidisciplinary consultancy team should be appointed to examine current and future challenges arising for the area, in the context of the conservation and management of the Plains, and any scope for the developmental potential of the area as a high value visitor and cultural amenity attraction.
In the light of this, my Department will consider, in consultation with Kildare County Council, the best way forward and will report back to me on these deliberations.
Naturally, any such examination concerning the future of the Curragh Plains will ensure that account is taken of the prime importance placed on the use of the area by the Irish Defence Forces and of the needs of the centrally located Defence Forces Training Centre.
In relation to the day to day management of the Curragh, the Deputy may wish to note that the recruitment process for the appointment of additional Curragh Plains land management staff to support the work of the Curragh Maor has been completed These additional resources will share in the task of overseeing activities on the ground including, but not limited to, litter, sheep branding, patrolling, monitoring users of lands, inspection of property boundaries, illegal encampments and engagement with the public. I can confirm to the Deputy that the additional two employees started work yesterday and will be valuable extra resources in assisting the Maor with the management of the Curragh Plains.