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22nd Apr 2024

Ireland’s first marine national park including iconic landmarks announced

Simon Kelly

Kerry marine national park

It will become Ireland’s largest national park.

Ireland’s first maritime national park has been announced, covering 70,000 acres of land and sea in county Kerry.

The Irish government announced that Páirc Náisiúnta na Mara, Ciarraí will include the iconic landmarks Conor Pass and Sceilig Mhichíl, and will become Ireland’s largest national park.

The new park also includes Mount Brandon, the sand dunes at Inch Beach, several islands off the Kerry coastline as well as the sea surrounding them.

The aim of the park is to protect and restore internationally significant biodiversity and archaeological heritage.

The land surrounding the Conor Pass was acquired by the state after it was was put on the market last August by Irish-American owner, Michael Noonan, for a price understood to be in the region of €6 million.

Another area of the new park, the catchment of the Owenmore River, an eight-kilometre waterway with nine lakes, was acquired separately.

Ireland’s first marine national park including iconic landmark announced

Minister of State for Nature, Malcolm Noonan, along with the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien made the official announcement on Monday, April 22.

In a statement, Minister Noonan said: “Today’s news signals a new era for the protection and restoration of nature on the Dingle Peninsula, and also for the people of Ireland, who will be able to enjoy the wonders of this incredible place for generations to come.

“A place of global significance and majestic beauty, this Páirc will be dedicated to the protection and restoration of its biodiversity and archaeological heritage, both of which are of international importance.

“Bringing the Conor Pass and the lands at Inch into public ownership has enabled the creation of this, the first marine National Park in Ireland’s history. Encompassing mountains, blanket bog, heaths, rivers, coastal dunes, limestone reefs, sea cliffs and some of the wildest and most biodiverse land and seascapes in the country, our new National Park is nothing less than a celebration of nature and Irish wildlife – a fitting legacy for a government that put the protection of nature firmly on the political agenda.”

As part of the master plan for the park, there is potential for additional educational and visitor facilities throughout the development stages.

It is believed that the government will engage with local communities in and around the park before putting together a management plan for the park.

There will be no new legal controls over fishing or grazing rights in the park as all areas included are already designated as Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, special protection areas under the EU Birds Directive or are statutory nature reserves.

This means they already enjoy the highest level of legal protection against development and exploitation.

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