Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney has said an ecological catastrophe is taking place in Lough Neagh and surrounding water ways, and has called for an urgent action.
In response to building community concerns he said Lough Neagh should be brought into public ownership with a long-term plan developed to keep the lough safe.
After writing to both NIEA and the Permanent Secretary of DAERA in June, and a series of public interventions, the senior Sinn Féin figure led a political and community delegation, including the party’s Environment spokesperson Philip McGuigan, locally based councillors, fishermen, anglers and the Lough Neagh Partnership, to meet senior officials of the NI Environment Agency and Inland Fisheries,
Speaking after the meeting in Toome, the South Antrim MLA said:
“I made repeated representations to senior officials at DAERA from June of this year, when it became apparent to myself and others that a devastating catastrophe was climaxing with the green algae bloom on Lough Neagh and surrounding waterways.
“It is clear that the entire ecosystem of Lough Neagh now faces a serious ecological crisis.
“Long-term implications for biodiversity, public health and the sustainability of our freshwater fishing industry are now in evidence within, and around the entire hinterland of Lough Neagh.
“Several abnormal phenomena relating to traditional fish species have been confirmed. This year the eel fishing season has been very seriously impacted. The officials’ presentation to our delegation confirmed that levels of phosphorus and nitrogen entering the Lough have been escalating in recent years.
“During the meeting we emphasised to NIEA officials that an urgent multi-agency and inter-departmental led strategy is now required. I believe the longer term ecological and economic priorities of the Lough, and surrounding community can only be protected through it being brought under democratic public ownership.
“We also highlighted for the officials the growing local community concern about a lack of information and clear messaging from both DAERA and the local council.
“It was agreed with the NIEA officials that a wider meeting will be convened in Toome in the near future to review departmental actions to bring the existing crisis under control. Later this week Philip McGuigan MLA, and I will attend a meeting being hosted by the DAERA Permanent Secretary in Belfast. I will use that opportunity to repeat Sinn Féin’s view that the catastrophe in Lough Neagh must become a whole of government priority, and that a dedicated strategic task force with specific actions, must be immediately established.”