A State agency poured more than half-a-million euro into a planning application for a licence for the ill-fated fish farm in Galway Bay.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has come under fire for the “outrageous” spend on the project, which polarised opinion in the city and county.
Ireland’s seafood development agency this week confirmed it spent a total of €524,992 on the licence application for its controversial plans for a proposed 15,000 tonne salmon farm.
The cost has been described as “shocking” but BIM indicated it was money well spent on information that will be useful in future.
In December, 2015, BIM announced it was no longer proceeding with the application.
It cited new national legislation in relation to sustainable aquaculture, which capped the size of new fish farms to between 5,000 and 7,000 tonnes, more than half the size of the Galway Bay plan.
It had planned a twin site farm, one for smolts at Inis Oírr and another for more developed species off Indreabhán. BIM claimed the €60 million project would support 500 jobs locally.
However, it faced a wave of opposition.
Opponents said it was a crazy idea, and predicted environmental ruin and the destruction of inshore fishing industry and, as well as having detrimental impacts on shrimp, prawn, lobster, crab and oyster fishing, and also the fishing-related tourism industry.
BIM, in a parliamentary response to Clare Daly, the Dublin TD, confirmed it spent some €524,992 on its Galway Bay licence application.
Deputy Daly, the independent socialist, slammed BIM for the outlay.
“The spend of €524,992 by BIM on this doomed licence application is shocking, and questions have to be asked as to why they persisted with it for so long when there were such huge question marks over the whole project, and such opposition to it.
“The threat to wild fish stocks from sea lice, the dangers associated with farms’ nets breaking, and all of the other environmental impacts of this plan should have been a red flag, and it’s outrageous that over half a million euro was spent on trying to push this application through regardless. You’d very much have to ask why public money was put to such poor use,” said Deputy Daly.
In a statement to the Connacht Tribune, the agency gave more detail about the expenditure.
“BIM invested €524,992, over a four-year period, into the development of a robust application, including scientific analysis, public consultation and legal advice. A considerable amount of this information stands to benefit the organisation and form the basis of future support to the Irish aquaculture industry,” it said.
Meanwhile, Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of Marine Institute, which is based in Oranmore, confirmed that his organisation also spent €21,948 on the initiative, which included over €9,000 for bird specialist advice; and a further €3,000 for training and simulation.
Simon Coveney, who was Marine Minister at the time the application was withdrawn, confirmed that his department spent a further €31,539 on the project.
That included €29,448 for legal advice, and €2,091 on expert hydrography advice.
Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised
Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.
A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.
Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.
Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.
Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.
He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .
Anger over ANC ‘snip’
ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.
Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.
In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.
Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.
At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years
By Erin Gibbons
A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.
Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.
Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.
It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.
All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.
Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.
That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.
Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.
She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie