ROI Minister claims Foyle shore is Irish
DUBLIN has once again flexed its muscles on Lough Foyle after the Irish planning board approved a compulsory purchase order for part of its seabed despite the whole of the waterway being UK-owned - right up to the Inishowen shoreline.
Almost three years ago the Sentinel revealed how the Republic of Ireland’s (ROI) territorial ambitions in Lough Foyle were partly blamed for blocking the Project Kelvin submarine cable’s progress up the waterway
Dublin’s claim was not tested then but it now looks like it could be given Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s fresh declaration that the Lough Foyle foreshore belongs to the Republic of Ireland under its State Property Act (1954).
The Minister made the contentious statement in reference to a successful application by Donegal County Council for development consent to build a sewerage pipeline hundreds of metres out into the Lough.
The mooted pipeline will extend from a new sewerage treatment plant at Carnagarve and will cross a popular shore walk just north of Moville.
Mr Hogan was asked by Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pádraig MacLochlainn for his Department’s stance on the proposed 350 metre pipeline “in view of the fact that the UK Crown Estate claims propriety ownership of the sea floor of Lough Foyle to the high water mark on the Donegal side of the lough.”
The Minister replied that a successful application for a compulsory purchase order was confirmed by the Irish planning board, An Bord Pleanála, in August 2011.
He went on to claim that the grant of the order was justified under current Irish law and that Lough Foyle’s foreshore was Irish property.
“Following confirmation by the Board the transfer of ownership of the foreshore concerned becomes a matter to be transacted between Donegal County Council as the purchaser and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in whom ownership of the foreshore is vested under the State Property Act 1954,” he stated.
However, this interpretation is disputed by the British Government and the Crown Estate.
Three years ago - after a telecoms chief told a Stormont committee a multi-million pound transatlantic cable could not be brought up Lough Foyle because it was “a disputed border region” - a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told the Sentinel that the whole of Lough Foyle was within the UK.
The paper asked the Crown Estate - which owns Lough Foyle - for its views on the latest claim on its property.
A spokesperson said: “The exact location of the international boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through Loughs Carlingford and Foyle remains an issue for determination between the UK and Republic of Ireland governments.
“In this context, The Crown Estate continues to work with the Northern Ireland Executive, The Loughs Agency and local stakeholders for the benefit of all users of the two border Loughs and the protection of their respective environments.”
Following Mr Hogan’s statement and in response to further queries from Mr MacLochlainn, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore admitted there was “currently no agreed maritime boundary within Lough Foyle.”
“The question of property rights to the seabed is a separate issue, regulated by domestic law. In this jurisdiction, with some small exceptions, the seabed adjacent to the coast belongs to the State and is currently vested in the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the State Property Acts. In the UK ownership of the foreshore is vested in a number of bodies, including the Crown Estate in Northern Ireland.
“Uncertainty concerning the extent to which each side exercises jurisdiction within Lough Foyle, and the separate but related issue of property rights, have created practical difficulties for the conduct of a number of activities there.
“This has included difficulty in creating a system for the licensing of aquaculture by the Loughs Agency in accordance with the intentions of the Irish and British Governments under the 1999 Agreement establishing Implementation Bodies.
“Discussions between relevant Departments and agencies on both sides of the border on specific issues have been taking place on a case by case basis,” he stated.
Mr Gilmore said discussions were recently held to address issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.
A first meeting between officials took place in London in January.
“While the issues involved - including the roles of the Crown Estate and all other relevant actors - are complex I am satisfied that both sides are committed to resolving them as soon as possible,” explained Mr Gilmore.
A spokesperson for Donegal County Council said the authority had no further comment to make on the matter.
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