An Irish environmental group has invoked an international treaty requiring the Northern Ireland authorities to consult with members of the public on both sides of the border before approving the dumping of dredged material from Warrenport Harbour into Carlingford Lough.
According to Friends of the Irish Environment, under the Espoo Convention on the impact of transboundary developments, Governments must give neighbouring countries ‘an opportunity to the public in the areas likely to be affected to participate in relevant environmental impact assessment procedures regarding proposed activities’. Both Ireland and the United Kingdom are parties to the 1992 Convention.
Friends of the Irish Environment say that Warrenpoint Port is applying for a marine licence to dump dredged material dredged from the harbour at two sites in the Lough, rather than the current approved sites 22 miles at sea. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland runs through the centre of the Lough.
However, according to Warrenpoint Port, no decision to proceed with a marine licence will be made until after the completion of a number of studies and should the results of surveys show a detrimental environmental impact, they say they will not be proceeding.
“Only following the completion of a number of surveys, studies and assessments, and taking account the views of all stakeholders, will a decision be made on whether or not to apply for the appropriate marine licence be made.
“However, should this work indicate the proposal would have an unacceptable environmental impact, we will not be proceeding with an application for a licence", a spokesperson for Warrenpoint Port told the Democrat.
Warrenpoint Port also state that the proposal looks at placing sediment at a single site, not two, in the mouth of Carlingford Lough between Cranfield Point and Greencastle.
“Two possible in-lough sites were identified initially but, following further consideration of the potential environmental and navigational effects, we are proposing to place material at a single site at the mouth of Carlingford Lough between Cranfield Point and Greencastle. This would be used for the smaller, annual, dredge; whilst the larger dredge, that takes place every five to six years, would continue to be disposed of at the existing sea site."
The ‘Site Characterisation Report’ states that ‘With Warrenpoint Port situated on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there is a concern that the United Kingdom leaving the European Union will result in a reduction of present trade entering the Port that is destined for the Republic of Ireland.’
In a submission to the Republic’s Contact Point for the Espoo Convention, FIE Director Tony Lowes pointed out that “The proposed disposal sites are located respectively 560 metres from the principle foraging site of the Light-bellied Brent Geese and 620 metres from the second designated site, the only breeding site for Common and Sandwich terns in Carlingford Lough. Both of these sites are Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive.”
The FIE submission cites the Dundalk Sub Aqua Diving and Rescue Club concerns over the “richness of diversity of marine life in the Lough”. The group, which has compiled an extensive list of species recorded in the Lough, says that no other dive locations that they regularly visit in Kerry, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Cork and Antrim compare to “the sheer diversity and density of life observed in Carlingford Lough”.
FIE invoked the Espoo Convention to successfully force the United Kingdom Government to consult with citizens of the Republic over the proposed new nuclear plant at Hinckley Point in the Severn Estuary and have an ongoing case under the Convention alleging that greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural intensification in Northern Ireland are adversely affecting the Republic.
James Orr, Director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, who have also raised the issue with the authorities, said “We don’t want to see a dirty Brexit and a dirty border in Ireland. What we want to see the free movement of people and goods across the Irish border. But we also need the free movement of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems across the island of Ireland.”
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