Monday, January 29, 2018

Pressure mounts on Curragh Forum

A 'work programme' to deal with issues on the Curragh Plains has been established at a recent meeting of the Curragh Forum, writes Brian Byrne.

Deputy Martin Heydon FG says these include legislation, traffic, signage and parking issues, as well as illegal encampments, sheep grazing rights, and the ongoing land management and maintenance of the Curragh.

He was responding to a statement by the Minister of Defence Paul Keogh, that a meeting of the Forum had taken place on 12 January, the first in more than a year.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, Kildare County Council, Curragh Racecourse Ltd, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and Horse Racing Ireland.

Deputy Heydon said that the meeting had been 'long overdue' and that 'more actions are required from the Forum in 2018.

"Progress has been made as the forum heard a new lands management team is to be put in place in 2018 to oversee all activities on the ground," the Deputy said. "This is something I have fought for over the past year and their duties will include litter, sheep branding, patrolling, monitoring users of lands, inspection of property boundaries, engagement with the public, and a proposed new role of engaging in education and outreach. A new environmental maintenance contract will also be sent to tender shortly."

Deputy Heydon said he will be working closely with Kildare County Council officials as they work in conjunction with Kildare Failte to produce a 'vision document' for the Plains.

Recently, Fianna Fail Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin called for a stepping up of efforts to reduce damage on the Curragh by unregulated driving and fly-tipping in the area.

She called for a designated car park to be provided for people who want to utilise the Curragh, 'a place of natural beauty' that must be preserved 'through proper usage'. Deputy O'Loughlin says the area should be designated as a National Park, adding that it meets all the criteria for national heritage status.

Meanwhile, Cllr Fiona McLoughlin Healy says the State is 'failing spectacularly' in its duty to protect the 'unique amenity' of the Curragh Plains.

She received support for her motion at Council last week asking that the Curragh Forum should meet with the local Municipal District, and she thanked the same councillors for 'calling out' the Forum for failing to meet even once in 2017 to address any of the issues of littering, illegal encampments, and over-grazing that are 'destroying' the amenity.