Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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UK Claim On Lough Foyle Has Never Been Settled

Writing in Buncrana Together Enda Craig looks at the contentious issue of Lough Foyle.

Historically, when Lough Foyle was discussed in Inishowen, the conversation revolved mostly around the fishing rights and the disputed nature of who owned what. In the end it usually ended up by agreeing that there is a dividing line separating the Lough into two halves - a half for them a half for us. In truth people did not have a clue about the true situations that pertains to the Lough.

It was only when Donegal Co Co came forward with a proposal to discharge sewage effluent into the Lough at Carnagarve  and a local campaign group, Community For a Clean Estuary, carried out extensive research that the true picture began to emerge. It quickly became very clear that Lough Foyle was a story in two parts:

1. The use and management of the water in the Lough
2. Ownership of the sea-bed.

The Loughs Agency is tasked with the responsibility of part 1. This is clearly seen from their Mission Statement:

The Loughs Agency aims to provide sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits through the effective conservation, protection, management, promotion and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford Areas.

It is only when the Fisheries Division of Northern Ireland and the Irish Govt combined and came forward in 2007 with Draft Legislation (Source:) to regulate the Aquaculture Fishery in Lough Foyle that the 'Elephant in the Room ' put in it's appearance in the guise of the Crown Estates.

When this legislation was presented to the Crown Estates as a 'stakeholder' for comment it is clear from the response (see letter crown_states.pdf ) that they would not accept the proposed draft legislation and from that date the process has stalled. The letter from the Crown Estates demonstrates and clarifies the true picture in relation to who calls the shots on the ownership of the sea bed of Lough Foyle.

This is the major 'spanner in the works ' which was never addressed from the foundation of the state and missed again by the Good Friday Agreement.
In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, a decision was taken to co-operate on foreshore and other issues that arise in the management of the lough from conservation and other points of view.

At least Mr James Brokenshire has put the British Government's cards on the table. Will it force some kind of response from the Irish Authorities?

This controversy has come to the fore again because of Brexit and if this British claim holds up what then are the implications for anyone from Donegal or indeed Republic of Ireland as a whole with regard to business and access to all amenities of Lough Foyle?

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