The Finance, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Infrastructure Ministers have agreed to take forward a recovery plan for the Mournes following the recent serious fire.
Speaking after they attended a round-table meeting in Newcastle on Monday with a range of key stakeholders, Ministers Murphy, Poots and Mallon said they would continue to work together to restore and enhance the resilience of the area after the fire caused significant damage.
In the short-term, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is considering the funding required for immediate remedial work following the fire. The Department of Finance will then lead on an action plan for the Mournes over the long term. This plan will be finalised in the autumn.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who chaired the meeting, said: “I called the meeting after visiting the Mournes and seeing at first-hand the devastating impact caused by the fire. I am determined that we do all we can, not just to aid recovery in the short-term, but also to develop this area of outstanding natural beauty into the future.”
Minister Murphy added: “My colleague Minister Poots is ensuring that the immediate funding needs, relevant to his Department, of those affected are met while I will work with local groups to develop a long-term plan for this much-loved area."
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots said: “Wildfires are a threat to people, property, wildlife and the countryside and efforts to fight them are a drain on the public purse. That is why I have established a Strategic Wildfires Group and will be establishing a Wildfire Stakeholders Forum to focus and align efforts to enable us to be best placed to face the wildfire challenges that lie ahead. Working in partnership is essential as was evidenced at the recent Mourne fire. The provision of vehicles and staff by my Department in support of such wildfire incidents is a great example of this.
“The Mourne Mountains are a treasure for all of our citizens and visitors. I fully support the long term sustainable management of the Mournes and my Department have for many years provided grant funding to organisations, such as Mourne Heritage Trust, to ensure the wonderful nature, landscapes and recreational opportunities it provides can be enjoyed and explored for generations to come and to help support local rural communities and economy.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon added: “I very much welcome this meeting and the collaborative approach being taken across government and with key stakeholders to ensure the protection of the Mournes, a unique area which offers so many leisure, tourism, environmental and economic benefits.
“NI Water owns a significant amount of land in the Mournes including important water catchments and is keen to assist in the development of restoration and recovery plans. These will build on the existing work it is doing with some key stakeholders in the area to help preserve water resources and enhance water quality whilst protecting the environment.”
Notes to editors:
- Photograph caption: Finance Minister Conor Murphy, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, Martin Carey, CEO, Mourne Heritage Trust, and Heather McLachlan, Director, National Trust NI
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