A local campaign opposing proposed oyster farms at Cruit strand and Keadue strand in west Donegal has gathered steam since it began last week, when local people became aware of the plans.
About 200 people attended a public meeting in Kincasslagh on Sunday evening, the third well-attended public meeting in a matter of days after public notices of the applications appeared in local newspapers.
“This time last week no one knew any of this,” Ben McGonagle, PRO of the Save Our Strands (SOS) group, said Sunday night in Kincasslagh hall, after the meeting had finished.
The public notices invited people to make submissions on the projects and SOS is encouraging people to make their concerns about the projects known to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
SOS group member Adrian Ward said people were not opposed to oyster farming – they have friends who make their living in the field and group members said they welcome employment in the area – but they had serious concerns about the proposed location of these oyster farm projects.
‘Wild Atlantic Way’ has brought results
Tourism is all the area has, group members said. And they said visitors are drawn largely because of the natural beauty of the area and its beaches, as well as by the legacy of international singing star Daniel O’Donnell, who is from Kincasslagh and whose fans still visit regularly.
They said the Wild Atlantic Way tourism initiative has produced results for the Rosses area in recent months. The increased number of visitors, particularly from France and Germany, has been noticeable, especially in local B&Bs and other businesses, they said
Visitors to the area include photography clubs who stay locally for several days in order to take photographs of the coastal west Donegal landscape.
“Who’s going to come and take photographs of oyster trestles?” Ben asked.
Strands well used by locals and visitors
In addition, group members said the local strands are also regularly used by local people and visitors for kayaking, horseback riding and swimming.
“Anyone coming to go to Cruit Island or Keadue, they don’t want to see an oyster farm,” SOS group member Sheila O’Donnell said.
She called the amount of footfall along the strands, “quite staggering”.
One application proposes an 11.2-hectare project in Kincasslagh Bay at Keadue strand, from applicant Manus Bonnar of Belcruit, Kincasslagh.
The second application proposes a 12.5-hectare project in Kincasslagh Bay at Cruit strand, from applicant Benedetta M.C. Cazzamali, who lives in County Cork.
The deadline for submissions on the application for the Keadue strand project is October 14th and the deadline for submissions on the application for the Cruit strand project is October 17th.
On Saturday, Thomas Pringle, independent TD; independent Cllr. Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig; and Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher met with local people at the Cruit bridge.
Deputy Pringle said Keadue strand is very heavily used by the local community. While the meeting took place, horseback riders could be seen along the strand.
“With trestles so close to the bridge and the area very well used by the local community, it is too big an intrusion and a displacement of the community,” Deputy Pringle said.
He said the projects, “would have a huge impact on the community, which hasn’t been considered”.
Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, Fianna Fáil TD, has urged the public to make necessary submissions to the department.
“I am fully supportive of the local residents and their bona fide concerns regarding these applications,” he said. “The natural beauty and unspoilt nature of this area along the Wild Atlantic Way has to be protected.”
Deputy Gallagher met with Minister Michael Creed last Thursday when news broke, and expressed his concerns. He said he has also been in discussions with department officials.
Questions over EIS
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin TD, questioned the minister’s decision not to require an Environmental Impact Statement as part of the plans that were submitted to the department.
“The minister’s decision is highly questionable, particularly when you consider the fact that the site is located within a Special Area of Conservation and considering the implications which such a large development will have on the region,” Deputy Doherty said, saying he will raise those proposals with Minister Creed.
The applications are available for viewing on the web site of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, by searching for aquaculture/foreshore licence applications at https://www.agriculture. gov.ie.