Sinn Féin urge local people to respond to National Park consultation document
Sinn Féin delegation including Willie Clarke MLA, and councillors Mickey Coogan and Mick Murphy attended the launch of the Public Consultation on the proposed Mourne National Park in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle.
Speaking after the launch Cllr Clarke, who is also Sinn Féin's Tourism Spokesperson, said:
"Any decision which results in the Mournes being designated National Park status will have long implications for people living in south Down and I would encourage everyone to respond to this consultation document. Sinn Féin has said from the beginning of this process that the concerns and views of people living and working in the Mournes must be listened to and should be a key consideration and an integral part of the decision making process.
"If the National Park model is to be applied to the Mournes, or indeed any other part of Ireland, consideration must be given to the model that is most applicable and we must also ensure that there are tangible benefits for local communities resulting from tourism and the increased marketing of the region. Money must be spent on improving the environment and farmers would have to be provided with incentives to diversify into profitable and sustainable alternatives to the existing traditional farming methods. It offers a unique opportunity to develop north/south co-operation by marketing the region on an all-Ireland basis and the prospect of developing the Mournes as an international tourist destination has huge potential.‰
Councillor Mick Murphy raised concerns about the proposed boundaries currently being recommended by the Working Party. "As Sinn Féin stated months ago, the suggested map if adopted, would have a border that ensures predominantly nationalist rural and urban areas are part of a National Park all of which would have series implications in terms of planning, land rights and house prices.
"Why for example, has Hilltown been included yet three miles up the road Rathfriland is left outside the boundary? If a National Park has so many benefits then why is it the people who live in places like Kilkeel and Annalong are to be discriminated against by being left outside its boundaries?"
Cllr Mickey Coogan said that final decision must first be Equality Proofed and a detailed economic and social impact study carried out on the implications for communities living within and outside the borders of a Mourne National Park. "There are many who fear that the possible negative implications should this decision be taken will far outweigh the potential benefits. Will sections of our population be forced off the land? Will house prices become less and less affordable to all but the wealthiest? Will rural areas become depopulated to the extent that whole communities are lost for ever and what are the implications for our traditional industries like farming and fishing?" ENDS