The designations applied to this area illustrate its importance on a National and International scale. They are:

• Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI)
• Special Protection Area (SPA)
• Ramsar Site

The Northern Ireland Environment Link advocate that under the EC Habitat Directive, Carlingford Lough (of which Greencastle and Millbay is an integral part) should be termed additionally as Special Area of Conservation due to its Atlantic Salt Meadows, estuary, algae shallows inlets and bays where common and grey seals occupy.

Concern over loss of natural wildlife is world-wide. Because of it, 178 countries, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland signed the international Biodiversity Convention at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Each country is committed to produce and implement a strategy to conserve Biodiversity. In NI a Biodiversity Group was set up to advise the Government on how best to apply these principles in the region.

Negative effects resulting from the project would include:

• Air pollution due to exhaust fumes from the large numbers of vehicles
• Noise pollution from the vehicle engines and from the ferry docking procedure
• Pollution from the toilet block as Greencastle is not connected to the sewage system
• Pollution from dredging, engine oil, waste and litter
• Disturbance of the fragile coastline due to dredging and wash from ferry engines

These effects will create considerable disturbance to wildlife, in the air, on land and in the sea.

Hence, in every respect in conflict with policies and principles expressed by the EU, UK and NI authorities. Below we draw attention to a few of the existing regulations.

1. EC Birds Directive & Habitats Directive & RAMSAR Convention resulting NI Regulations.
2. A Planning Strategy for Rural NI, Policy SP17…… Trees & Hedgerows states that the Planning Service will seek to maintain and enhance the rural landscape by encouraging retention of trees and hedgerows.

Mr Malcolm Moss (then Minister for the Environment) wrote in May 1996
“The Department is required to protect SPA’S from development likely to have an adverse effect on the site’s nature conservation value”.

In mid 1999 the UK Government announced that a new law was in preparation which is designed to strengthen the protection of the countryside and wildlife.

There is a wide-ranging variety of wildlife, flora and fauna in need of protection and conservation, which is the purpose of the designations listed above.

Carlingford Lough has an exceptional range of inter-tidal and sub-tidal habitats and a range of sediment types including marine communities and species not found elsewhere in NI.

The Lough and it’s off shore islands, (owned by the National Trust and managed by the RSPB) are sanctuaries for birds such as Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Arctic Tern and after a long absence two pairs of Roseate Terns have returned to breed (RSPB News Winter 1997). We also have Brent Geese visiting from the Arctic each winter to feed on the eel-grass and other plant life growing on the Millbay mud flats. The muddy sands also supports a number of species of polychaetes. Common and grey seals pup and breed on the many rocks and small islands in the area. Esturine otters have been seen in pursuit of salmon at Greencastle Point.

We quote from Mourne Matters Issue 3 Biodiversity in Mourne:

“Carlingford Lough has an exceptional range of inter-tidal and sub-tidal habitats found on rocks and a range of sediment types including marine communities and species not found elsewhere in NI. In addition, the islands in the Lough are internationally important for breeding terns including the rare Roseate terns and wintering waterfowl such as the light bellied Brent Goose”.

During a public meeting for Landowners and Holders of rights within the Carlingford Lough ASSI (8 Jan. 1997) the Chief Conservation Officer with the Environment & Heritage Services and his colleagues clarified various questions from the floor, and we quote from the Minutes of that meeting.

Q. Can another public body develop in this area?
What are the implications of the proposed ferry service?
R. Every public body is bound by the regulations protecting an ASSI.
If they wish to undertake a project, they will need to apply for consent, discuss the proposals and perhaps alter their plans or be refused permission. The providers of the proposed ferry service will be bound to submit an Environment Impact Assessment to the planners.

Q. Are the roads to the shore for public usage?
R. Often, these are not public rights of way, but only to be used as rights of way by the people of adjacent townlands.

Mr Furphy, during the meeting stated:

“The DoE Environment & Heritage Service is obliged to ensure that all qualities that ensure its (Carlingford Lough) designation as an ASSI remain.
Thus active management and monitoring are vital for the protection and maintenance of the biological interest”.

The opportunity to observe and monitor birds, wildlife, flora and fauna on land and in the sea is not only a tourist attraction but is also important to scientists in their study of the biodiversity of our area. Road widening would entail the destruction of hedges and sandy ditches with the resultant loss of this habitat.

DANI 1995 Countryside Management, Field Boundaries, state;

“The base of the hedgerow supports a tremendous range off plants, birds, insects and small animals, especially along the roadside. Open drains increase the diversity of species”.

Replacing hedges, even over a short distance cannot prevent the loss of wildlife. Damage is not always obvious, predictable or immediately apparent. Hence, the EU has adopted the principle of ‘precaution’ where planning is concerned.

No doubt Newry & Mourne District Council’s Environmental Impact Assessment deals with such matters and we shall comment on it in due course; but what is set out above shows that the project is contrary to policy and has unacceptable negative effect on wildlife.

The photos and information which follows demonstrate some of the above details.