'A very special place': Kerry to be the home of Ireland's first marine national park

webnexttech | 'A very special place': Kerry to be the home of Ireland's first marine national park

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien; Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kieran O’Donnell, made the announcement on Monday afternoon at the sun-drenched Dingle Skellig Hotel. They were joined by Education Minister Norma Foley and the chairman of Kerry County Council, Jim Finucane, for the announcement. Today we welcome Páírc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí – Ireland’s first Marine National Park and our eighth National Park.The Pairc includes the Conor Pass, as well as new sites at Inch Peninsula, Mount Brandon and the Owenmore River in Co. Kerry. pic.twitter.com/1RauCCphn0— Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage (@DeptHousingIRL) April 22, 2024 It comes after a parcel of land incorporating the Conor Pass went on sale last August with a price tag of €10m. After former owner Michael Noonan put the site on the market, a petition calling on the Government to acquire the tract of land for the State was signed by up to 20,000 people, calling for the development of a national park in the area. Darragh O’Brien confirmed on Monday that acquisition of 4,500 acres of additional lands for the project totalled €12m, including the Conor Pass. The Conor Pass drive is one of Ireland’s most well-known scenic routes, and links Dingle with Castlegregory. Situated at the foot of Mount Brandon, the drive is a scenic gateway to the Dingle Peninsula. The Conor Pass area includes Lough Atlea, Lough Beirne and Pedlars Lake, with the Owenmore River and Lough Clogharee making up its western boundary. Mr O’Brien said: “We were always very interested in the Conor Pass but we didn’t get into negotiations over the media either. We are delighted that has actually been concluded. €12m encompasses three additional land purchases.” The purchases included 1,400 acres at Inch “of probably the best dunes potentially in the country,” according to the minister. “The best way that we can protect and rejuvenate and regenerate the magnificent nature that is here and the biodiversity that is here as well and indeed the rich heritage is by bringing these lands back into public ownership,” he said. Mr Noonan described the area as a “very special place” and said the State is embarking on the “great challenge of our time which is the restoration of nature”. He described the project as a long-term investment in the local community and in nature. Mr Noonan said the project is about working together “to try to restore the habitats, try to restore the eco-systems, bring species back from the brink”. He continued: “A lot of these species, particularly birds, that are around this coast are on the red list and need our protection.” Mr O’Brien said activities in the area such as agriculture and fishing will not be impacted by the project. “Anything that took place yesterday will take place today and take place tomorrow as well,” he said. “There will be no additional restrictions in any way, shape or form. Our work is to collaborate with those who live here, those who work the land. Our farmers are one of the greatest protectors of our lands and our biodiversity.” Mr Noonan said one of the greatest challenges for landowners in the area is succession, “not the threat posed by government policy. We want to keep farmers on the land and keep fishing communities thriving and vibrant and we need to keep animals grazing on the land to help us restore nature.” Education Minister Norma Foley said Kerry had the country’s first national park in Killarney and will now have the honour of having Ireland’s first marine national park. “I am proud beyond measure,” she continued. She added: “We are on the pig’s back here in Kerry this morning.” She said it was extremely important to have students from Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in Dingle at the launch, describing it as an honour. The students are members of the school’s environmental committee, Coiste Timpeallachta. Leaving Certificate student Caitlín Holden said the committee had concerns when the Conor Pass was put up for sale, with fears it would be a site for tourist developments such as accommodation. She said: “There is loads of marine wildlife and all of us have something to do with the ocean here. I sail. Obviously the fishing industry is massive but with that, you have to keep an eye on the conservation of species.”

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