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Sinn Féin demand greater representation on Mourne Park working group

16 August, 2004

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane has criticised the decision of direct rule NIO Environment Minister Angela Smith to exclude MLA's from the Mourne Park Working Group.

Speaking after receiving confirmation from the DoE that the only elected representatives entitled to sit on the group would be two Councillors from each of the three Council areas affected ˇ Down District, Newry and Mourne and Banbridge, Ms Ruane said:

"In early June I was part of a delegation which included my party colleagues Cllr Willie Clarke MLA and North Louth Cllr Tomas Sharkey who met with Angela Smith MP and her team of advisors in order to try and secure wider representation on the Working Group. We proposed that each of the four main parties should have at least one Assembly Member sitting on the steering committee.

"I am very disappointed at the decision to exclude MLA's. This will mean that the working group on the establishment of the Park for the Mournes is unrepresentative. Sinn Fein's position on this matter is clear ˇthe working group should be as inclusive and representative as possible.

"Sinn Fein have consistently argued there must be proper consultation with local stake holders before a park can be established in South Down, South Armagh or anywhere else in Ireland. The proposal to designate the Mournes National Park Status must have a broad consensus of support and is why it is essential that a proper mechanism be put in place, which will allow effective consultation with local communities. The potential for a Mournes National Park will be diminished unless it is truly a national park within the context of the island of Ireland. Only Sinn Féin will consistently bring this analysis to the table.

"The way that Angela Smith is approaching this issue will sideline the interests of the many local people that will be affected and potentially create a political imbalance within the working group.

"Such a park has the potential to affect everyone living in County Down and the neighbouring counties of Armagh and Louth. This is a huge issue that will have a profound effect on many aspects of local life such as farming, tourism, planning and the environment. It was vital that there was effective representation from across the political spectrum and I hope the decision by Angela Smith will not have long term implications. " ENDS

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