16 January 2017
By Bryan T. Smyth
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said that the potential of the Gearagh to drive the development of enterprise in the Lee Valley area cannot be overlooked by those tasked with putting together a management plan for the unique ecological site.
The Ireland South MEP made the comments following a meeting with management at the Macroom E enterprise centre this afternoon.
Liadh Ní Riada said:
“The Gearagh is a unique and ecologically important area of outstanding beauty and diversity. We have a duty to protect this site as part of the natural heritage of Ireland and of the planet. Statutory protections already exist for the unique animal and plant life in the area and I have welcomed the belated moves by the ESB, as majority landowner, to put in place a management plan for this Special Area of Conservation.
“I believe that this management plan must also take into account the views of the local communities, and must be comprehensive and farsighted in its approach. We need to take a holistic look at the protection of the Gearagh and ensure that its value as a community amenity, site for research and education, and area of local historical importance cannot be overlooked.
“There is huge opportunity for the development of eco-tourism in the area, centred on the Gearagh and surrounding areas. Many academics have spoken of the wealth of opportunity for research and study in the Gearagh for both our own universities and colleges, and for further afield.
“Today’s meeting in Macroom E is part of a wider process of consultation on the future of the Gearagh that I am undertaking at the moment. It was engaging and refreshing to come to a forward-thinking and dynamic social enterprise, located in the heart of the Lee Valley, to discuss how the development of enterprise in the area and the conversation of the Gearagh can be achieved with creativity, hard work, and a willingness to think outside the box.
“I will continue to engage with all stakeholders on this matter. I will meet with the ESB and state agencies in the weeks ahead and once more make the point that the management plan for the Gearagh must be visionary, multi-faceted and community based.