Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 20 February, 1997

Other Questions. - Mullaghmore (Clare) Site.

10. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht if he will restore Mullaghmore, County Clare to the natural state it enjoyed before construction began in view of his statement that he will return Luggala, County Wicklow to its original condition. [4713/97]

14. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the current value of the structures at Mullaghmore, County Clare in view of the fact that they have been in place for more than four years; and the amount they depreciated in value in that time. [4676/97]

Mr. M. Higgins: Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 10 agus 14 le chéile. The Deputies will be aware, from my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 17 December 1996, that expenditure incurred to that date on the Mullaghmore project amounted to some £2.2 million, inclusive of the cost of some land purchases, construction and associated costs and disruption costs following the suspension of works in 1993, site safety works, costs associated with the current planning application, etc. It is not possible to determine the current value of the structures at Gortlecka or any depreciation that might have taken place unless a costly professional valuation is undertaken.

Mr. Sargent: Bhí mé fós ag fanacht le freagra ansin, nuair a ghlaoigh tú orm, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Cuirim fáilte roimh an ráiteas a d'eisigh an tAire mar gheall ar Luggala agus fáiltíonn na Glasaigh i gContae Chill Mhantáin roimhe. Ach i gcás na nGlasaigh i gContae an Chláir, tá siadsan fós ag fanacht le ráiteas. Sa Chlár, sa County Express, dúradh liom go ndúirt an tAire mar gheall ar an moladh atá anseo chun an Mullach Mór a chur ar ais ina sheanriocht:

“what we have here is a modest proposal” ó thaobh na ndaoine a bhí á lorg sin, “to relocate the Visitor Centre to an area which already had the infrastructure to cope with the large influx of people that was to be expected in future years.” Sin i mí an Mhárta, 1992.

[548] Iarraim ar an Aire scrúdú a dhéanamh arís ar an méid a bhí ina intinn ag an am — tá a fhios agam nach raibh sé ina Aire ag an am ach fós féin chreid sé gur cheart go bhfágfaí Mullaghmore nó Gortlecka ina n-áiteanna nádúrtha. Iarraim air athmhacnamh a dhéanamh air sin de bhrí go bhfuil na bailte timpeall air an-sásta an t-ionad cuairteora a lonnú sna bailte.

Mr. M. Higgins: I can only answer questions in this House as Minister. The process of reflection suggested by Deputy Sargent occurs to me regularly but, equally, I would respond in the same vein. All I would hope for at this stage is that people would understand what I am trying to do, which is to resolve a matter with the greatest degree of consensus possible. It is already a matter of public record that a planning application was lodged on 24 October 1996 with Clare County Council in respect of a limited level of visitor facilities to accord with the relevant recommendation in the Burren National Park study. It is not correct to say I am using Gortlecka instead of Mullaghmore to confuse people. When one applies for planning permission one has to give the correct address on the planning application. I am amazed at the number of people who have sought to see something sinister in that. I have also said it is not an installation in its own right, it is an entrance arising from a proposal in the study. The application made by the Commissioners of Public Works on my behalf is for permission for an entry point at Crag Road, Gortlecka and Knockaunroe through the Burren National Park comprising covered waiting area, toilets, ranger accommodation, ancillary parking, storage and signage. The application proposes the removal of some elements and the retention and completion of other elements of a previously proposed visitor centre which will otherwise be backfilled and the land reinstated to its previous condition.

In response to Deputy de Valera's responsible question about whether there had been any further application from Clare County Council, I have given the information I am aware of, but if there are others in my Department — and there may well be — we will compile them and answer the question speedily. She is entitled to that information. I apologise if I gave the impression that there are no further applications when in fact the Deputy may be aware of some. If so, we will compile that information and respond.

Mr. Molloy: Was it not the Minister's position when he came to office that there should be no visitor centre at Mullaghmore? Is he now saying there will be a visitor centre at Mullaghmore?

Mr. M. Higgins: I will answer the question directly. I am not entitled to impose my personal will on the resolution of any problem. My personal opinion always has been that places of great scenic beauty and ecological interest should be left alone as much as possible and that visitor [549] facilities should be structured in areas of population. We have tried to bring the community together through a consultation process. If I am not entitled to impose my personal will — I am not seeking to do so — it is important for those of us who are concerned about Clare and want a resolution of the issue that it be seen there are no winners or losers. It is not a case of people getting everything they ask for. There are matters that have yet to go before the courts. There are also planning matters. Deputy Molloy knows my view and what I am trying to do. As in many other areas I am trying to achieve the best result possible by listening and consulting.

Miss de Valera: I thank the Minister for his assurance that if there is any outstanding correspondence with Clare County Council it will be dealt with forthwith. In reply to the priority question regarding Mullaghmore the Minister said there would be no undue delay in implementing his plans. Can the Minister give a specific time limit?

Mr. M. Higgins: What I meant was that I wanted to be of maximum assistance to the Deputy. I will have the next stage ready immediately I hear the result of the planning process.

Mr. Sargent: I am pleased to hear the Minister say he wants to listen to all views. I ask him to listen to a view I heard on New Year's Day around Gortlecka and Mullaghmore that the area was too valuable from an ecological and scenic point of view to have any facilities located there. The view was that it should revert to its natural state when the hazel and natural vegetation would quickly colonise and the area would, once more, become one of wild beauty.

Mr. M. Higgins: I appreciate the sentiment behind what Deputy Sargent has said. I ask him to use his considerable influence with many of our mutual friends to put to an end the dishonest suggestion that I used Gortlecka on the application as a way of masking Mullaghmore. That is not the case. The planning application is for an access, not a set of visitor facilities.