SECURING OUR WATERWAYS

5 March 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

One of Co Monaghan’s most proven tourism resources is our rich waterways which have for a long number of years been a magnet for fishermen not just from other parts of the country but from the UK and the Continent.

At a time when new tourism strategies are being evolved and the necessity for a distinctive branding image for our county is being seriously addressed by our local authority, a timely cautionary warning was delivered at Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council about the vulnerability of our key waterways resource to a potentially devastating threat.

The presentation by Joe Caffrey and Dick Caplice of Inland Fisheries Ireland which focused on the harm that a range of invasive non-native species of plant, invertebrate and fish life could wreak on our rivers and lakes impacted forcefully on its listeners.

Perhaps the most chilling element of what Mr Caffrey had to say was his comparison of the invasive species threat with that of foot and mouth disease.

The exacting regimen of precautions necessary to prevent that disease from entering this country a number of years ago, and the widespread disruption to community activity that accompanied them, are still fresh in the memory.

The notoriety of food and mouth disease and the damage it could do to our agricultural sector were so pronounced in the public mind that co-operation with the preventative measures was readily forthcoming, and a dire threat was successfully staved off.

The harm that invasive species can inflict on Irish angling and tourism, as well as on biodiversity, the environment and public health, command a lesser general awareness, thus arming the threat with the additional weapon of complacency or unawareness in the public at large.

Most fishermen, certainly those who compete in match events, will have a developed knowledge of the dangers and the biosecurity measures necessary to counteract them – indeed, compliance with them seems now mandatory in all major competitive events.

But other users of our waterways, those who enjoy boating or watersports, for example, may be less aware – and they too can be vectors of the threat.

The focus given during Monday’s presentation and discussion to Lough Muckno in Castleblayney was understandable given the importance of its angling resources to the local economy and the prestige the venue now commands on the international competitive angling stage. And Muckno has, it was heartening to learn, played something of a pioneering role in the developing system of precautions that now accompany all significant match events.

Mr Caplice’s estimate of Muckno being worth €3.5 million annually to the local economy – a figure he expects will shortly rise to €5 million – puts some monetary value on what is at stake should any invasive species gain a foothold in the Mid-Monaghan “jewel in the crown” of our angling tourism product. When one adds to this the amenity value of the area, its importance to the identity and stature of Castleblayney and the county as a whole, its function as a habitat and a nurturer of biodiversity, the scale of potential damage expands to truly frightening proportions.

A new system of bye-laws, as Colr Aidan Campbell alluded to on Monday, is already being advanced, and Chief Executive Eugene Cummins and the elected members of the Council showed commendable willingness to ensure that their actuation will be expedited. And Mr Caplice’s assurances that the necessary biosecurity controls can be implemented without hindering those who avail of the general amenity value of the Muckno area should ensure that they win widespread acceptance and support within the surrounding community.

In addition to these measures, some serious thought should be given to an information campaign targeted at boaters and other non-angling users of Muckno who may not be as readily aware as the fishing community is of just how lethal a threat invasive species pose, and just how easily they could unwittingly be responsible for their introduction.

We would suggest to the Inland Fisheries Ireland representatives that they might bring their presentation to the Public Participation Networks currently being established to foster productive links between the community sphere and local government. The wide range of organisations represented on these bodies could prove very effective disseminators of the necessary precautionary information among the broader public, thus ensuring that an additional safeguard is put in place that would assist the bye-laws’ acceptance and ease of implementation.

Muckno and our county’s many other angling treasures have a value to the quality of life and identity of the place where we live that extends far beyond the revenue they generate.

They are bounteous but fragile resources that must be safeguarded at all costs from the invasive species threat.

 HOMES FROM HOME

The families and other stakeholders who have been waging a long campaign for tangible progress on the much-awaited group home for persons with physical and sensory disabilities planned for Carrickmacross will be pleased at the unanimous vote at Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council which saw the project complete the planning phase of its development.

Hopefully the process from tender stage through to construction and completion will be speedier and less complex than this concept’s painfully protracted gestation.

When in operation, the facility will add considerably to what Co Council Cathaoirleach Pádraig McNally rightly described as an already impressive range of “homes from home” in the South Monaghan area – centres of care enabling the user to remain in the reassuring environment of proximity to their native place.

We would strongly endorse the Cathaoirleach’s advocacy of this approach as “a worthy example for other towns to follow”.

The quality of life as well as the quality of care required by the elderly and those with special needs would be enhanced immeasurably if this trend were emulated in the county’s other urban and rural locales.

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