Creating an MPA regime will constitute a major change in marine environmental protection in Ireland. At present, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law. Environmental protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore. Protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited, both in terms of space and species.
Ministers O’Brien and Noonan are asking the public, stakeholders, industries and others for their views on the final report of the MPA Advisory Group, which was chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe of UCD’s Earth Institute. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. The report quotes economic data showing Ireland’s ocean economy has a turnover of €6.2 billion and provides stable, sustainable work for 34,132 full-time equivalent employees.
Launching the consultation, Minister O’Brien said: “Ireland, along with the rest of the world, faces the twin crises of climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss on land and at sea. The Government has a vision of clean, healthy, diverse and productive oceans and seas around Ireland. This report is a solid basis for a national dialogue on how we progress that vision. I urge all with an interest in our seas – whether you live in a coastal area, earn your livelihood from the sea, want to protect our marine life or simply value our seas – to have your say by the end of July. Once again I’d like to thank Professor Crowe and the expert group for this excellent report.”
Minister Noonan added: “By expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area network, we will give vital protection to vulnerable marine species and habitats, and also support the functioning of these ecosystems to provide us with a whole host of benefits including climate change mitigation and enhanced resilience for fisheries into the future. By realising this vision to expand our MPA network, Ireland will play an exemplary role in global efforts to protect marine ecosystems, the extraordinary species and habitats they hold, and the benefits they provide to people.”
In parallel with plans to increase Ireland’s MPA network, the Government will soon publish Ireland’s first Marine Spatial Plan – the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) – and the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill 2021. The NMPF is the national plan for Ireland’s maritime area setting out how we want to use, protect and enjoy our seas. It will outline the national approach to managing Ireland’s marine activities and ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources to 2040. The Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will serve as the cornerstone of the marine planning system in Ireland and it brings together and creates the legal foundation for forward planning and streamlined development management and enforcement. Both the new forward planning model envisaged by the Bill, and a future MPA regime, will secure the objectives of the NMPF.
The public consultation on the MPA process launched today by Ministers O’Brien and Noonan will inform development of new legislation on the identification, designation and management of MPAs, to begin later this year.
Today, new legislation has passed giving An Garda Síochána additional powers to help tackle the anti-social use of scrambler bikes, quad bikes, and similar off-road machines in spaces such as public parks.
Scrambler bikes will now be prohibited on public or private land, except in cases where there is permission from the landowner. This proposed new offence will cover places such as parks, green areas, waste ground and beaches. The use of vehicles on private lands, such as farms, will not be affected.
An Garda Síochána will for the first time, also be enabled, on foot of a warrant, to enter a private premises and remove a vehicle suspected of having been used contrary to the new offence.
These new measures, together with other avenues being developed by the Interdepartmental Group set up by Minister James Browne.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has today [16 February 2021] announced the establishment of an Independent Working Group to examine the issue of defective housing.
Minister O’Brien, who brought a memo to Cabinet today asking Government to note the establishment of the working group, said this was an important step in assisting owners of latent defect properties.
The Programme for Government sets out a range of commitments in respect to housing defects. Among these are a commitment to examine the issue of defective housing in the first twelve months of Government, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, “Safe as Houses” and to assist owners of latent defect properties by identifying options for those impacted by defects to access low cost, long term finance.
Commenting Minister O’Brien said, “The establishment of this group is a significant step forward in helping those most affected by this awful issue. Just before Christmas I appointed Mr Seamus Neely, former Chief Executive of Donegal County Council, to the position of Chair of the working group and he, along with the rest of the group will get to work finalising a detailed terms of reference so that the working group can begin without delay.
“The main purpose of the working group will be to identify the scope of relevant significant defects in housing, to evaluate the scale of housing affected, to propose a means of prioritising defects, to evaluate the cost of remediation, to recommend appropriate mechanisms for resolving defects and, to consider financing options in line with the Programme for Government commitment to identifying options for those impacted by defects to access low-cost, long-term finance.
“For many years I have been highlighting the plight of homeowners who have been left with the consequences of poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials. I have visited homes which have fire safety or structural defects and the worry and stress this causes is immense. Through this working group we hope to begin the process of remedying these issues,” he concluded.
It is envisaged that the working group will have representatives, with relevant expertise and experience, from key stakeholders, including:
• Engineers Ireland (Construction Professional),
• Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (Construction Professional),
• Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (Construction Professional),
• Public Sector (Construction Professional),
• Local Authority Sector (Fire and Building Control Officers),
• Legal Sector,
• Department of Finance
• Construction Defects Alliance and
• Apartment Owners Network.
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Local Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has welcomed the €14,870,000 allocated to Fingal County Council to support sustainable transport projects across North County Dublin.
Minister O’Brien said the allocations were all the more welcomes given the renewed focus on walking and cycling during the current pandemic.
Commenting he said, “I am really delighted with today’s significant announcement for Fingal. The numbers of people walking and cycling has shot up during the pandemic.
“The large increase in the number of families and individuals on our existing greenways and walking paths demonstrates clearly the demand there is for this type of infrastructure. People are enjoying exploring their own localities in a safe manner. I think this demand will last long after the pandemic is gone.
“The projects that the NTA are funding will make a real difference to commuters and leisure seekers alike. Improving infrastructure for cycling and walking will make our cities, towns and villages more accessible and attractive for everyone. That’s good news for communities, and good news for the economy.
“Today’s announcement will also contribute greatly towards achieving Safe Routes to School, be it walking, cycling, or scooting, for our children in their daily commute to the classroom when schools reopen.
“I look forward to these projects in Fingal being progressed as quickly as possible,” he concluded.