Student Blog by Michael McCoy
Hi everyone, Michael here. Today I had the honour of attending the Lough Neagh conference. This meeting focused on the future management of Lough Neagh and how councillors, MLAs and local residents and their businesses can work together. A presentation was given by Dr William Burke, Lough Neagh Partnership (LNP) manager who informed the audience of the current management in place along with what is needed for the future. A representative from each of the main political parties also spoke about their views on legal responsibilities and what the aims are for future policies regarding Lough Neagh.
John Blair, representing the Alliance party, was knowledgeable about many concerns regarding management and referred to his experience in working Inland Fisheries for NIEA. Blair understands that realistic ideas need to be in place to work inside the budget. Tourism was highlighted as it is deemed important to improve public awareness of the Lough. Blair acknowledged the biodiversity rich environment and the unique species that live in and around the Lough. Blair wants to develop government policies with great detail and ensure everything is planned out instead of rushing poorly thought out ideas.
Rosemary Barton spoke on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party (UUP). Barton understood the need for more support from the government and the need for structure. She acknowledges that there is conflict of interest between communities. Barton highlights the need for inter-departmental grouping and only by working together can this task be achieved. Barton praises the good work done by LNP so far.
Dolores Kelly represented the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). She focused on farming and fishing communities, highlighting the issues of flooding on agricultural farmland. Kelly also briefly mentioned Eutrophication and focused on the need for more creative ideas. She highlights the importance of community involvement and the need to be flexible and adaptable. Kelly concluded by pledging the SDLP support to having a proper structure for regulating policies on management for Lough Neagh.
Francie Molloy, who was representing Sinn Fein focused on the need for one department to make the important decisions for future management of Lough Neagh. He highlighted the need for navigation authority on the Lough that the general public and fisheries should follow. Malloy wants to develop tourism across the whole Lough and feels that Lough Neagh needs to reach its full potential. He wants more people fishing on the lough to help generate revenue.
Overall, every politician was emphasising the importance of Lough Neagh and the need for a more structured approach to managing the lough. I personally found the conference interesting and hope that the meeting today will hopefully improve not just the economic and social aspects of the Lough, but also the environmental side, which requires more focus from the government.