Category Archives: Satire

New Midland’s Tourism Initiative Launched

The local business community in the midlands has warmly welcomed the announcement by Failte Ireland that it is to launch ‘Ireland’s Midlands – Our Heritage, Our Legacy’ a new tourism initiative to rival the hugely successful Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. Over the next three years Failte Ireland and Bord na Mona, together with the local authorities of Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Galway will invest €20 million in a capital works and promotional programme to showcase the special heritage of the midlands, and the traditional practices that still linger on here but which have died out over much of the rest of Western Europe.

Ireland’s Midlands – Our Heritage, Our Legacy will involve investing in developing the River Shannon, its tributaries and the remaining areas of raised bogs to build a unique discovery experience for tourists to the region. The initiative will involve developing and promoting a series of mesmerising ‘Legacy Points’ linked by a network of ‘Heritage Ways’. Consultants have been commissioned to come up with an initial shortlist of 15 Legacy Points, but this will be whittled down to just 10 when intense lobbying by local politicians has been completed. A network of Heritage Ways will be built to link these points, criss-crossing the region. The Heritage Ways will be built using local materials, and will be based around the blueway, greenway and brownway concepts.  Tourists will be encouraged to leave their cars at gateway entry points and explore the region either by foot, boat, bike or quad, building on the slow-tourism concept that is all the vogue these days.

The concept has already been trailed in the vicinity of Clonmacnoise and has proven to be a huge success. Here tourists are given a truly unique interactive experience of the countryside.  The experience begins with a boat trip along the Shannon from a special jetty built just close to the historic heart of ancient Clonmacnoise, where tourists are given an audio-visual show about the special relationship between the callows and the corncrake, now a thing of the past. After the boat trip along the blueway, tourists head for the high ground of the Pilgrim’s Path greenway, providing stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Here the greenway follows the esker along actively worked sand and gravel pits.  The path then descends to Mongan Bog, so special it was gifted to the Irish State by the Dutch.  The main attraction here is the Interpretative Centre, and after a cup of tea and cake, the adventurous can explore the bog by quad for a once in a lifetime experience along the brownway.

Bord na Mona, one of the largest employers in the region, has been hugely supportive of this initiative. Head of Strategy, Mr. Pete Portach, says that the new initiative will bring much added value to its operation. ‘Almost all of our peat harvesting activities have a strong traditional theme and are firmly rooted in the past. We are lobbying hard that our two peat-fired power stations will be given ‘Legacy Point’ status, as tourists from Germany and Holland would be in awe of how the midlands still manage to have not one, but two of these fully operational stations’.  The thousands of acres of bare milled peat that is actively worked is likely to be an added attraction to visitors from Continental Europe, as this is a type of landuse with which they would be totally unfamiliar. ‘Ireland’s Midlands – Our Heritage, Our Legacy is a win win situation for Bord na Mona, and the good thing is that our staff won’t even have to upskill to showcase our dearly held traditional practices’, Portach added.

It is understood that discussions are at an advanced stage with the local community that manages the Abbeyleix Bog project to see if Bord na Mona can take back that bog and put it into active peat production once again. Mr Portach explained that while this community participative initiative was seen as a progressive way of doing things at the turn of the Millennium, it now runs the risk of damaging the brand that we are trying to develop for the region.

The Minister of State Kevin Boxer Moran, a keen advocate of river management, has expressed his full support for the project. He has offered the assistance of his Department to help drain the Shannon and its tributaries in order to extend the tourism season into the shoulder months, when rainfall and flooding can play havoc with the tourism product. Minister Moran acknowledged that while his Department had carried out many fine flood alleviation projects, tackling a project of the scale of the River Shannon would be a particular challenge. It is understood that he is looking at creating a special supplementary fund to enable the Department to draw on the knowledge and expertise of the Healy-Rae’s, as they have considerable experience in this area.  ‘These Kerry lads do not come cheap, but they are quality operators’ he said.

New scheme to help struggling farmers

Agreement has been reached between Fine Gael and some of the Independents  on a broad policy platform to stimulate the rural economy as part of efforts to gain support for Enda Kenny’s nomination for Taoiseach when the Dáil meets next week.  The main plank of this policy is a new scheme to help struggling farmers who have seen their income fall sharply in recent years. The scheme will target some of the most agriculturally disadvantaged areas, and provide payment to farmers who undertake a programme of countryside enhancement measures.

The scheme, to be called the Countryside and Rural Area Programme, will be open to all farmers with annual incomes of less than €50,000 per year or those that live in areas identified as ‘Special Areas of Concern’. Participating farmers will be able to draw down a maximum of €8,000 per year if they carry out different countryside enhancement measures. It is understood that the Scheme will cost €60 million, but economists predict that the downstream benefits will far exceed that initial outlay.

The full range of options are yet to be finalised, but it is likely to be based on the current GLAS model. It will be a three tiered system. To receive the basic payment of €5,000 per annum, participating farmers can choose from three measures;  the cutting and grubbing out of hedgerows and other bits of scrub that are cluttering up the countryside; dredging drains, streams and other wetlands to improve drainage; and the burning of hillside vegetation to clean the land. In the more disadvantaged or ‘Priority Areas’ of Kerry and Roscommon, farmers will have the option of getting an additional top up payment of €2,000 if they agree to drain and get rid of any remaining raised bogs, clear their land of any wild flowers and other wildlife, and put up electric barbed wire fences to keep any birdwatchers, families with young children or city slickers from entering their land. There will be an additional €1,000 per year available for ‘gold standard’ CRAP participants who agree to put out crow bangers to scare off seagulls and operate live traps to capture pine martens and put them back into Nature Reserves.  The introduction of a corncrake scaring measure in key corncrake areas is also being considered.

The CRAP will be part of a new Department of Rural Affairs, established to drive real change in rural Ireland. The Rural Development and Forestry sections of Agriculture will transfer to this new Department of Rural Affairs, as will the LEADER and Roads sections of the Department of Environment and the drainage section of OPW.  It will also be given a statutory role for rural planning, merging some of the existing responsibilities of NPWS, EPA and An Bord Plenala, to deliver a more common sense approach to planning for rural Ireland. With the exception of the Greens who feel there is a better way of doing things, it is expected that this policy platform will have broad political support.

Wolves to make a return to Ireland

More than 200 years since the last Irish wolf was shot in Co. Carlow, wolves are set to make a return to Ireland. Plans are at an advanced stage to re-introduce these magnificent creatures into Ireland. The first pack of two males and five females will be released into Killarney National Park, as part of a controlled release programme that will run for 5 years and involve the translocation of 30 animals to Ireland.  The project is spearheaded by the Irish Grey Wolf Re-introduction Group and NPWS, and has the support of the IFA, Failte Ireland and Kerry County Council.

Speaking at the launch of the project in Muckross House, Prof. Canis Lupus, Chair of the IGWRG and a native of Norway said ‘he was thrilled that these majestic creatures would once again roam the Irish countryside’. This is the fourth re-introduction project in Ireland, but the first involving a mammal. ‘That the project has received such widespread support is testament to the huge support there is in Ireland for wildlife and nature conservation’, Lupus added.

The project was fast-tracked when Ireland stepped in after the Scottish Highlands wolf re-introduction programme was abandoned late last year. Despite the EU already spending £3.2 million on planning and consultancy fees,  continued funding of the ‘Bring Wolves Back to Britain’ campaign, one of several re-introductions programmes planned under the Re-wilding Britain initiative, was considered too risky by the European Commission now that Britain was to push ahead with it referendum on EU membership and a potential BREXIT. A spokesman for the Commission, Mr. Carnivorous explained that ‘despite having already invested heavily in this project, the Commission has a responsibility to spend its money wisely, so now was a good time to withdraw further funding’.

Killarney National Park is considered an ideal alternative site to the Scottish Highlands as it is a similar habitat, a wilderness, it rains alot and is in State ownership. Careful habitat management will be the key to the success of the project. Wolves are shy, elusive creatures that require wide open hillsides with unobstructed views to breed successfully. The recent decision to amend the Wildlife Act to extend the season for burning of upland vegetation will provide this unique habitat. Amending the bill will overcome the final obstacle to allow NPWS pitch for the lucrative EU-funded project, set to bring in at least €5 million annually in compensation payment to farmers.

The IFA is supportive of the project as it will make good use of waste land, and provide an additional source of income through compensation for lost ewes. Mr. Paddy O’Brian, Head of IFA’s Wilderness Committee said ‘this really is a win-win situation for farmers as it will help manage our uplands in a sustainable way and provide good compensation payments. Wolves will also prey on pine marten and other vermin that are over-running the country at the moment’.

Failte Ireland has welcomed the initiative as yet another tourist attraction along the Wild Atlantic Way.  Mr. Dar B. O’Gill, Head of the Failte Ireland- Kerry said ‘that the Wild Atlantic Way runs through a wild, rugged landscape, so adding the wild wolf as an additional theme can only but help to re-inforce this strong brand’. It is understood that a number of ‘Wolf Viewing Areas’ are to be established where tourists can park their cars and watch wolves in the wild. ‘Clearly there will be a significant investment needed to fence off these viewing areas, for health and safety reasons, but as it is an election year, that shouldn’t be a problem’. O’Gill added that ‘Failte Ireland is also looking at the feasibility of totally enclosing these areas to ward-off marauding seagulls who are terrorising young families, many of whom find the great outdoors a scary place’.

The European Commission has said that it will very shortly make a final decision on the total amount of funding that the project is to receive. Mr. Carnivorous said ‘that the Commission was very supportive of initiatives of this kind. After decades of EU policies the West of Ireland is fecked anyway, so leaving it to the wolves is probably the best thing we can do’.

Note from the author:  This is a satirical piece on attitudes to nature conservation in Ireland. Please don’t think it is factual!

(Grey Wolf photo: