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 Header Item National Risk Assessment (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 970 No. 7

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] Continued investment in farmer-led results-based payment schemes will certainly benefit biodiversity and provide an excellent model for future agri-environmental supports in Ireland and in other countries. We are also investing in research into natural capital accounting and biodiversity financing to inform policy on the management and restoration of our natural capital stocks in Ireland and options for mobilisation of funding to address key biodiversity concerns.

  With regard to Bantry, which was raised earlier today, I am told it is a misconception that the licensee would be harvesting vast quantities of kelp from within the bay. Not all of the seaweed in the bay will be harvested. In fact, the total area licensed is 750 ha. This accounts for 0.7% of the bay and is split into five distinct zones. The licence provides for a four-year rotation of the zones with a stand-by zone only to be harvested if the weather is adverse. On average, 175 ha will be subject to harvest annually. The rotation will ensure that only a portion of the bay is harvested each year to strengthen the sustainability of the harvesting plan for the licensed areas in the bay. The harvesting is also subject to strict monitoring, which is required by the approval baseline study. The monitoring programme includes comparisons between harvested and non-harvested areas in each zone for density and height of kelp, together with a quantitative measure of flora and fauna.

  It has been suggested there has not been a public consultation on this issue. This is incorrect. The licence originally applied for back in 2009 was processed in the same way as other foreshore lease and licence applications and the normal public consultation procedures were followed but there were no submissions from the public. The public notice was published in the Southern Star and the application documents were on display in Bantry Garda station in December 2009 and January 2010.

  It has also been suggested that kelp will not grow back. There are, in fact, 21 peer-reviewed papers on kelp harvesting. They all prove that kelp grows back after harvesting. No paper shows that kelp does not grow back. Indeed, as kelp generates three to six years after harvesting, suggesting, for example, that it is akin to cutting down ancient woodland is not correct. Kelp maturity is reached after six years and on average kelp lives for eight years. There is no root system and it is easily lifted from the sea floor during storms. This is evidenced by the fact that 20% of Ireland's kelp is washed up on our beaches every year.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask for Members' co-operation. There are just four minutes left and if we do a round it will take six minutes and then answers and we are running 20 minutes behind.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I propose the two Deputies who tabled the questions go ahead.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed. They each have 30 seconds for their question.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I thank the leader of Fianna Fáil for that courtesy. We need a land use plan that sets out how we will protect and develop diversity. Critically, if we get it right it will champion human diversity and life in rural Ireland. There was a meeting on Friday night in Leitrim, where communities are utterly despondent and do not see a future. They see their area covered in tree plantations or land being abandoned. We need to stop this and change it. We can do it best by setting ourselves a goal of creating a massive national park, not just in pockets but taking the whole Wild Atlantic way and seeing it as a national park where we protect biodiversity, and in doing that, create tens of thousands of jobs in forestry, tourism, clean energy and high-quality high-value food production where animal welfare comes first. What we need is a quantum leap and not just a tweak in the existing system. We should start with a tenfold increase in the budget for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which is a Cinderella in the Irish public service. It does not have the resources we need. Put this into the plan and scale up the thinking on biodiversity because that is the answer to rural Ireland's future as much as anything else.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I also thank Deputy Micheál Martin. The people in west Cork will say very differently, in that the boxes were ticked but it was not a real consultation as very few people actually knew what was happening and what was proposed. We do not know what the impact of the cutting down of kelp may be, but it is certainly a spawning ground for many marine species and we do not know what the damage could be to those fish that spawn in those kelp fields. This is why people are very opposed to the harvesting commencing, particularly in advance of the judicial review.

The Taoiseach did not respond on the Heritage Bill 2016, which runs completely against our commitment to maintaining biodiversity. It allows the cutting down of hedgerows, which are critical for sustaining biodiversity. Scrub, hedgerows and wild growth are absolutely critical from a climate change point of view and a biodiversity point of view. The Heritage Bill cuts very much against it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I call the Taoiseach. Make the best of a minute.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I will do my best, as always. A land use plan is a good idea and we will certainly give it some consideration. The Government and its Departments only have a certain amount of bandwidth to produce any number of plans in any given year but it is certainly something to which I am happy to give consideration. To an extent, the national planning framework does this but certainly not to the extent I know Deputy Eamon Ryan would like.

I have to disagree on the suggestion we make the entire Wild Atlantic Way and entire western seaboard into a national park stretching along the entire coast through to Kerry. I really do not think people living in those counties would like their entire counties turned into national parks. People often criticise planning in Ireland that treats the west of Ireland as if it is an national park and does not bring to it or the western seaboard road infrastructure, broadband and all the things that allow people to participate in economic and social life.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan Look at the Burren.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Burren is a beautiful place, but I am not sure we should turn the entire western seaboard and all of the counties along it into a national park like the Burren. I really do not think that would be welcomed in those counties for obvious reasons. People want to protect their environment but they also want economic opportunities, they want jobs, they want their children to be able to stay living in those areas and they want more people to be able to move into those areas and sustain the schools and all of the social infrastructure.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan They go together.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett There was no answer on the Heritage Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There are road safety aspects.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy James Browne - to discuss delays in approving the pathfinder programme for young people with mental health problems; (2) Deputies Eugene Murphy, Charlie McConalogue, Eamon Scanlon, Pat Casey, Declan Breathnach, Michael Moynihan, Brendan Smith, Lisa Chambers, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Mattie McGrath and Niamh Smyth - to bring forward the grass cutting date on traditional hay meadows under the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, to allow farmers to avail of the good weather to save fodder; (3) Deputy John Brassil - to discuss the sanction for a pilot drug reimbursement scheme for Ocrevus for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, PPMS, patients; (4) Deputy Michael Harty - the need to review psychiatric service resources in west Clare; (5) Deputy Maurice Quinlivan - to discuss the lack of child psychiatry resources in the Limerick early intervention service; (6) Deputies Pat Buckley, Jonathan O'Brien, Mick Barry and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire - to discuss the ongoing issues for residents at the Leeside Apartments, Bachelors Quay, Cork; (7) Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin - the delays in granting homecare packages; (8) Deputy Mary Butler - to ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures his Department is taking to deal with the enrolment crisis in St. Declan's Community College, Kilmacthomas, County Waterford in the short term and the long term; (9) Deputies John Curran and Gino Kenny - the issue of cyberbullying and bullying and examining the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 with a view to amending section 5 to include cyberbullying and persistent bullying as an offence; (10) Deputy Jackie Cahill - the need for a traffic management plan in the Thurles area; (11) Deputy Aindrias Moynihan - to discuss the need to prioritise the wastewater and sewage scheme for Coachford, County Cork; (12) Deputy Brian Stanley - to discuss with the Minister the plan for St. Francis School, Portlaoise, which is to be proposed to be situated on the site of former St. Paul's primary school, Borris Road, Portlaoise; (13) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - the funding crisis of the UNRWA in Palestine; (14) Deputy Michael McGrath - to ask the Minister for Finance when all outstanding claims associated with the collapse of Setanta Insurance in 2014 will be paid in full; (15) Deputy James Lawless - to ask the Minister for Education and Skills the present status of the two post-primary schools under construction on the shared campus in Maynooth ,the impediments regarding same; when the schools will be in a position to develop this facility to the next phase; and if he will make a statement on the matter; (16) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - to discuss the need to immediately implement Action 2.1 of A Healthy Weight for All: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016-2025; and (17) Deputy Paul Murphy - the ongoing industrial dispute at Lloyds Pharmacy.

The matters raised by Deputies Browne, Harty, Aindrias Moynihan and Cahill have been selected for discussion.

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