15/12/17

Speech by Minister of State for Justice at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for Equality, Immigration, and Integration, at the Opening of the Bird Hide, Harpers Island, Co. Cork

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Good afternoon a Cathaoirleach, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here on behalf of my colleague Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht who could not be with us in Cork today.

As you know, it’s always my pleasure to be able to promote Munster and the county of Cork.  So I am delighted that this facility will enhance Cork’s already significant National standing in terms of natural assets. It will give not just the Country but importantly our community access to another area unmatched in its opportunities.

The importance of Harpers Island is the fact that at high tide, when all the resting and feeding places are covered by tidal waters the Island provides a safe haven for wintering species of birds such as Shelduck, Godwit, Dunlin, Knot, Snipe, Teal duck, Widgeon, Mallard, Eagret and Curlew.

Harpers Island is unique in that this wildlife experience is situated in such close proximity to Cork city. Nearby Glounthane railway station provides a stop off point for interested groups. At a practical level, the Project provides a great opportunity for tourism business to showcase to visitors what can be can be experienced in the area.

County Cork is, of course, rightly renowned for its beautiful landscape, its unspoilt countryside and its welcoming people. This facility is undoubtedly a significant addition to our locality and it aims to provide not only increased nature conservation benefits and biodiversity but also enhanced recreational and social benefits by making the island accessible to all.

Children and adults alike can experience the comings and goings of wader species and with the incoming and outgoing flows of the tide, learn more about the daytime and nocturnal habits of these wonderful creatures.

The bird hide provides a secretive viewing place where birdwatchers can experience these rare and valued species surviving in this unique habitat of high conservation value. The expert signage on site will act as an able assist for bird and animal identification.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and Cork County Council will work together to provide a suitable pathway from the railway station to Harpers Island entrance  and in time  hope to have a safe parking area to allow safe access to the  bird hide.

As the statutory body with responsibility for nature conservation, it is with pride that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will take ownership of Harpers Island and further develop it with nature conservation and education as its top priority.

Harper’s Island in the heart of Cork forms a very important part of my overall effort to make people aware of the wonderful heritage that makes up of the character of this wonderful county. At the same time, we need continually to promote and invest in Irish nature as a whole and its endless potential, as it presents – as it has always done –  a fantastic opportunity to support tourism in this country and contribute to re-invigorating the economy here.

The NPWS believes that the opening of this property will make this nature reserve a premier destination in Ireland to experience nature conservation and learn about biodiversity and the importance of protecting our habitats.

The NPWS has really had a constructive 18 months! The Nephin Area and Ballycroy National Park were internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Park. In late 2016 the NPWS expanded Wicklow Mountains National Park. In February my colleague Minister Ring launched the Fáilte Strategic Partnership with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In summer they opened Killarney House to the Public. They received a UNESCO designation for the Kerry Biosphere, and last month saw Ballycroy National Park double in size. One of the highlights was the launch of the National Biodiversity Action Plan for 2017-2021.

The new Plan demonstrates Ireland’s continuing commitment to meeting and acting on its obligations to protect our biodiversity for the benefit of future generations through a series of targeted strategies and actions. It is a concrete effort on the part of those at the forefront of protecting biodiversity in Ireland to clearly identify the challenges we face, to lay out the actions we will take and, moreover, to hold ourselves to a wide range of forward looking and ambitious commitments at local, regional and national level.

All this development by the wonderful staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht underpins the Government’s on-going commitment to preserving our Nation’s heritage for generations to come.

These outcomes are due to in no small part to the collaborative effort of everyone involved. And today’s announcement is no exception. It has taken much time, effort and patience to bring this project to fruition and I would like to express my warmest thanks to all those involved. I would like to thank officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, especially Eamonn Meskell who is here today. I would like to extend my gratitude to the County Council and to Dave Suddaby; Jim Wilson; Paul Moore and Tom Gittings of Birdwatch Ireland who have worked closely with all parties to make this project happen.

Finally my sincerest thanks go to Derry Delaney, Garry Tomlins  and Conor O’Brien of Glounthane Community Association whose drive and commitment to keep this project at the forefront of conservation policy for the region is what has made today a reality.

I will finish here by quoting an old Chinese proverb “A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.”  With the opening of Harper’s island, we will be brought closer to nature, we will have an opportunity to leave searching for all the answers behind us, and just take the time to hear the song.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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