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Sinn Féin oppose imposition of National Park without local agreement

20 February, 2007

Sinn Féin South Down Assembly election candidate Caitríona Ruane has said that it is a mistake to impose the planned national park on the area without the support of the local community.

Ms Ruane said:

"Sinn Féin is opposed to the imposition of a national park in south Down without the broad support of local communities. Unlike other political parties, particularly the SDLP, our position has remained clear and consistent and we are calling for rigorous economic, environmental and equality appraisals to be carried out as a precursor to any final decision.

"Since the start of this process Sinn Féin made it clear that the consultation process must be extensive, thorough, and transparent so that local people can make an informed decision about whether or not to support the concept of a national park. We have argued that no decision can be made until there is clarity and detail on issues such as planning, land rights and infrastructure.

"The understandable impression is that this is already a done deal; that the consultation process involving the Working Party and the people of the Mournes was nothing more than a sham and a rubber stamping exercise which was ultimately a complete waste of time.

"There are many who fear that the possible negative implications of a national park far outweigh the potential benefits and that many traditional industries will be lost. It remains to be seen if south Down's tourism industry would benefit should this decision be made. However, if there really are these types of positive spins offs then why not extend the boundaries of a national park to take in south Armagh and north Louth and market this region of outstanding natural beauty as a single entity?

"A balance needs to be struck between providing sustainable development and ensuring the rights of people who have lived and worked in the Mournes for generations. Will sections of our population be forced off the land? Will house prices become even less and less affordable to all but the wealthiest? Will rural areas become depopulated to the extent that whole communities are lost forever and what are the implications for our traditional industries like farming and fishing?

"The consultation process embarked on by the National Park Working Park has failed to answer these and many other questions." ENDS

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