Wildlife campaigners slam new multi-million tourism plan for national parks

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

July 19th, 2018

Environmentalists and wildlife campaigners have slammed the Government’s new €257 million masterplans for preserving national parks.

Last week, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, TD unveiled her department’s budget allocation for protecting Irish national parks and boosting the country’s tourism sector.

Ireland is home to several National Parks and wildlife attractions, including Killarney, Wicklow Mountains and Connemara national parks. In 2017, 10.65 million tourists visited the country, generating over €5.7 billion in revenue for the state.

The recent funding is part of a larger 10-year €1.2 billion investment in Ireland’s historical and cultural assets. The masterplan is set to address deficiencies such as signage problems in national parks. It also calls for building new cultural venues that would draw more tourists to the country.

However, according to Padraig Fogarty, campaign officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust, the Government’s attitude of sheer negligence toward wildlife and tourism management is an issue that a multi-million euro investment is unlikely to address.

“We need proper advancement in conservation,” Mr Fogarty told The Green News. “Nearly all of our national parks have very serious conservation problems that haven’t been addressed.”

Fintan Kelly of Birdwatch Ireland expressed similar concerns and called on the Government to guarantee management reform in wildlife and tourism sectors.

Conifer Plantation in Wild Nephin area,, now part of the Ballycroy national Park 2 December 2017 Photo: James Orr

“The plan looks to invest in physical infrastructure and the branding of our National Parks without addressing the lack of investment in the management and conservation of the wildlife and scenery that draws people there in the first place,” Mr Kelly said.

“What use will hides & interpretive centres be when all there is to see is rhododendron, turf-cutting and wildfires? We need to see investment in conservation first and foremost,” Mr Kelly continued.

He added that the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) should be given legal and political support to maintain national parks and wildlife properly.

Wildlife campaigners argue that the State Property Act of 1954, which grants managerial authority over State-owned lands to the Government, is to blame for the current state of Irish national parks.

“Giving the NPWS the political backing to go out and implement the law would cost nothing but would deliver more benefits for wildlife than the masterplans €257 million budget,” Mr Kelly said.

The 1932 Bourne Vincent Memorial Act outlines that national parks should be “managed and maintained” for the “recreations and enjoyment of the public”.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.