Tensions have emerged among county councillors over the zoning of land in Killybegs and the future of St Catherine’s well and the surrounding area.
The issue was raised in a discussion of the local area plan which is now to go out to for further public consultation.
The zoning of the area attracted 721 submissions from members of the public in favour of zoning the area as undeveloped/local amenity and 36 submissions from industry which opposed the zoning.
A proposal has been made that would put a 40-metre buffer zone around the area.
That proposal, from independent Killybegs councillor Niamh Kennedy, was opposed by Donegal town Fianna Fáil councillor Michéal Naughton.
Protection of heritage
In an address to the council at Monday's meeting, Cllr Kennedy said the well relates to the very founding of the community.
She said her proposal was a compromise between those who want to protect the area from development and those who want to allow development.
“Heritage such as this cannot be reinstated. Once it is gone it is gone forever, “ she said.
“We must save this area and come up with a solution.”
But Cllr Naughton said a compromise had not been reached.
“We also need to put it on the record that there can be no question about the importance if the future development of the harbour for the town and the whole south of the county.”
He said he wanted to make it clear that “nobody in Killybegs has an issue with St Catherine’s well”.
“We also need to put it on the record that there can be no question about the importance if the future development of the harbour for the town and the whole south of the county. The reality is that Killybegs and its harbour is the biggest asset this county has.”
Cllr Barry O’Neill supported Cllr Kennedy’s position and called for councillors to allow engagement between the community and industry.
“This is a very scenic, important ecclesiastical site. It is one of the very few areas in Killybegs that people have to call their own.”
Councillors agreed that the plan should go out to public consultation again with the proposal of the 40-metre buffer zone around St Catherine’s Well. The plan will come back before the council in July.
Key issues identified in Killybegs by the area plan include the importance of the fishing industry and port-related activities for the town’s economy; the importance of the tourism sector to the town’s economy; the promotion of Killybegs as an innovation hub for marine resources including food, tourism and ocean energy; and the historical and cultural value of the rich heritage of Killybegs, particularly in relation to the archaeological heritage.