MAYOR RECEIVES CONFIRMATION OF WEIR COMPROMISE
Mayor of Fermoy Tadhg O’Donovan has received written confirmation from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources confirming that the Government is willing to adopt compromise proposals for the weir in Fermoy should such plans satisfy all sides of the dispute.
The Department’s original proposed refurbishment of the weir has angered local people, with Fermoy Rowing Club in particular concerned at what they believe is the complete removal of the weir.
Such proposals, they argue, would render rowing and other leisure pursuits on the River Blackwater unsafe. The Department’s proposals aim to make the weir compliant with EU conservation directives.
However Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Sean Power TD, stressed that an exercise into finding a solution to the impasse ‘must be undertaken as a matter of urgency given the real time constraints faced in achieving our shared objectives.’
Donal O’Keeffe, secretary of Fermoy Rowing Club, said that while the move is welcome, the group are still wary of the Department’s intentions.
“While we in Fermoy Rowing Club welcome cautiously any movement toward a common-sense solution, it must be noted that the final recommendations to the minister will still come from the same civil servants who wanted to vandalise the river in the first place. The weir could still fall, with the consequent lowering of water-levels closing our club,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
Mr O’Keeffe added that the prospect of sanctions from the European Union has been unfairly used by the Department to ensure the works go ahead.
“For two years Fermoy Rowing Club and the people of Fermoy have been told that Ireland faces imminent fines of hundreds of millions of euro if the weir in Fermoy is not lowered to allow better passage for migratory fish on the river.
However, in the last three days, Kathy Sinnott MEP has received definitive confirmation from the Law Enforcement Section of the European Commission DG Environment that “there is no explicit threat except that, if there is a serious problem for the salmon, the Commission could potentially take - or be asked to take - enforcement action”.
They further state “the Irish authorities have themselves - independently of any complaint - formed the view that the weir is a barrier to salmon migration and are proposing to physically alter it to allow easier fish passage,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“There is a very real agenda at play here and it has precious little to do with Europe. As Deputy Sean Sherlock said in the Dail, ‘hiding behind the fallacy of a habitat’s directive is typical of a government which has used the European Union when it wants to push through some bad proposals...the Southern Regional Fisheries Board is the main instigator and ... it is seeking to justify its position,” he continued.
Furthermore, the Fermoy Rowing Club are suspicious of the language used by the Department in describing the works, Mr O’Keeffe added.
“It should also be very clear that Department officials have of late begun to spin the line that their planned weir work is a mere refurbishment rather than a demolition. This would be akin to knocking Castlehyde House, another local national monument, sticking up a block of flats and calling it an upgrade.
"An act of wanton destruction remains that regardless of the language used to try to sell it. The Heritage Unit of Cork County Council has, in the last fortnight, raised serious archaeological concerns about any plans to demolish or replace Fermoy weir. There is also a clear disquiet that it took the initiative of a private citizen to draw the matter to their attention."
They state very strongly that the weir is listed as a Protected Structure in the Fermoy Development Plan 2004-2010.
They further note that “Fermoy Mill is a recorded Monument and the weir is an integral part of this” and that “the weir is also adjacent to the Fermoy bridge and within the Zone of Archaeological Potential around the bridge.”
As such, it is the recommendation of the Heritage Unit of Cork Council “that such works are not exempted development and that planning permission is required.” Mr O’Keeffe continued.
The Fermoy Rowing Club secretary concluded by urging the department to fix the existing weir rather than installing new fixtures, something that could set a precedent for the rest of the country, he warned.
“If Fermoy Weir falls, it will be only the latest domino in a concerted campaign of wilful and reckless wreckage. Carlow and Athy could well find themselves on the menu next. After that, Iniscarra, Galway or Islandbridge will probably be considered fair game.
"We in Fermoy Rowing Club are making a stand but we cannot make it alone. To repeat the call made by our Olympian Gearoid Towey, we need all those who care about the sport of rowing and all those who love the town of Fermoy to stand with us.
"We ask Ministers Eamon Ryan and Sean Power to see sense and fix the weir, the cornerstone of Fermoy, and if necessary install new fish passes. In these straitened economic times let’s stop wasting tax-payers’ money on un-needed vanity projects.
"At a time of unprecedented levels of child obesity let’s not put Fermoy Rowing Club out of business. With a national outcry for accountability, let’s see our government officials stop blaming Europe for their own agendas and mistakes,” he said.
Tuesday 30th December 12:23pm