There has been a strong, positive response to the current edition (March) of the MARITIME IRELAND RADIO SHOW, which focuses on the topic – ‘How committed are we, as a nation, to preserving our maritime culture?’
It is encouraging that there appears to be a general increase of public interest in the maritime sphere. In this context, I chaired one session of a conference a week ago about development of renewable energy in the maritime sector, from wind and waves. I highlighted concerns expressed to me about the impact on coastal communities, the fishing industry, shipping, the leisure sector, the wide maritime community. I had chaired a previous conference about marine protected areas. There is a definite need, I was told, for much more consultation with those who will be affected.
It is conceivable that Ireland could become in the forefront of a seismic move in energy production. At present this is dominated on an East-to-West axis of oil and gas. Could the Atlantic potential for wind and wave energy arriving on our shores to be developed lead to Ireland as an energy producer, on a West-to-East axis? Should that be a focal point of State planning and policy? Are benefits to the State, to the communities and existing industries that would be affected, as well as giving a fair return to developers, being adequately considered and debated. At present there are a considerable number of requests for planning approval of offshore development. Is adequate, realistic concern being shown for the impact on coastal communities and marine-associated industries?
These questions arose from the conference. Ireland must improve its approach for the nation to benefit more effectively from its natural resources, I have been told. Did the nation get sufficient economic benefits from natural gas finds? The State failed to prioritise Ireland’s rich fishing waters and ensure maximum benefit through the fishing industry.
These are issues for debate.