What does national housing policy have to do with maritime development off the Irish coast?
The answer is that both are under the control of the Department of Housing.
The chart of Ireland’s maritime area issued by MARA (the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority) – shown in this column – indicates the size of the area for marine licencing which the Government has given the Department of Housing control over, including the foreshore.
“A key role to play in the new streamlined consenting system for the maritime area,” says the Department of Housing.
Government has sidelined the Department of the Marine from involvement.
The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association does not think that “gives much hope for the future of the maritime sphere, if that Department deals with the marine as it has housing.” The primary focus of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage – housing- is the major, national, societal problem. The May Homeless Report (the most recently issued) showed 12,441 people homeless – a new record high. The Department, consistently criticised, now has additional, vast maritime responsibility for offshore wind farms and energy and for Marine Protected Areas.
An island nation, dependent on the seas around it, assigning vital decisions about the maritime sphere to the Housing Department seems a little illogical.
The Chairman of MARA is Mark Mellett, former Head of the Defence Forces and aa Strategic Director at Irish Mainport Holdings. He has forecast 2.500 wind turbines on the South, West and East Coasts, a large number. Is this what MARA plans to approve? How would this number impact the seabed and marine species during construction and operation and how much of the marine area will they close off to maritime activities?