Response to Mourne National Park Working Party Report
Commenting on the recent publication of the Mourne National Park Working Party's Report to the Environment Minister Arleen Foster, South Down Sinn Féin Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane has said that it is essential that the park can benefit ordinary people from both rural and urban areas.
Ms Ruane said:
"In welcoming the publication of this report it seems clear that the Working Party has made an effort to take on board some of the many concerns local people have in relation to a Mourne National Park. This is a highly contentious and emotive issue that has provoked a wide ranging debate which undoubtedly reflects peoples' genuine concerns and fears over any decision to confer on the Mournes national park status.
"From the beginning of this process, Sinn Féin clearly stated that the consultation period should not be rushed and must allow people to have a meaningful input into shaping the type of National Park so that it would be best suited to the Mournes. This means it has to benefit ordinary people from both rural and urban areas.
"The Working Party have attempted to address some of the issues raised by my party in our submission and have looked at vitally important matters such as land and grazing rights, social housing, planning issues and the national park boundary which originally excluded Kilkeel and Annalong.
"I am disappointed however, that our proposals on extending the park's boundaries in order to include south Armagh and north Louth were discarded. As we enter an era of closer cross border co-operation surely it would have made more sense to market the Cooley Peninsula and the Mournes as a single area of outstanding natural beauty?
"If the decision is made to re-designate the Mournes then substantial funding must be made available to ensure the entire region is marketed properly. Farmers must be provided with incentives to diversify into profitable and sustainable alternatives to the existing traditional farming methods and the agricultural sector needs to be supported in a variety of meaningful ways. We need to develop a long term strategy that is supportive of our rural communities. It should also mean substantial capital expenditure to improve our road infrastructure and an emphasis must be placed on securing funding for cross border projects such as the link bridge at Narrow Water." ENDS