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“Picking the site is one thing, the actual location of the turbines is another…”

The importance of developing offshore wind energy is accepted, but successfully doing so will involve wide co-operation from all maritime sectors. This will be a key to its success, but already disparate views are arising. One of the issues which is hard to understand is why the Department of Housing has been given overall responsibility for maritime planning. The Department has not distinguished itself in dealing with the immense national social problem on which it should be priamrily focused – the housing shortage problem. It has been allocated control of MARA the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority and decision-makingon marine protected areas. There is no mention of any involvement by the Department of the Marine. Does this reflect thinking at the Cabinet table about the marine sphere and were it sits in the recognition of Ministers? Marine is the last title in the three-name Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Increasingly I am hearing concern expressed about the Government’s approach to the offshore wind energy development. More voices are being heard urging caution in how it allocates the valuable waters around our coastline, from the fishing industry, the leisure sector and some environmental organisatons, such as Coastwatch. While general support exists for providing alternative energy, the devlopers have the strongest resources of finance, lobbying and public relations, but is there enough balance?

Not so far perhaps.

The Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation, John Lynch, tells me on the MARITIME IRELAND PODCAST this month that “at this stage” companies involved should be presenting their proposed turbine layouts to the fishing industry. “Picking the site is one thing but picking the actual location of the turbines is another thing. Companies had previously stated in correspondence that the fishing industry should have an input at this stage into the actual location of the turbines within the site. We were always promised that we would have an input, but nobody has offered us this yet.”

The national media has been fulsome in reporting the planned developments, but an emergent marine spatial squeeze which has been identified in the Irish Sea for example, is not getting attention, nor from politicians, government or State administrators.

This could prove to be a folly if not addressed

Tom MacSweeney

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