CORK County Council is writing to the Minister for Heritage, Culture and An Gaeltacht to seek a deputation or Zoom meeting regarding the protection of the freshwater pearl mussel in the Blackwater River.
At a special council meeting at County Hall, the majority of councillors called for something to be done to safeguard industry in the area that they say would have to come to a halt if the 2018 EU legislation was reenacted.
The discussion stems from a High Court decision to quash the 2018 legislation that removed the freshwater pearl mussel from the Blackwater Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Environmental activist Peter Sweetman successfully took a case against the Department looking to quash the legislation removing protection for the pearl mussel and he was successful.
Speaking about the issue, Fermoy Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn said this was a devastating decision by the court. “It is a bombshell to each and every one of us. North Cork is the food capital of Europe, with some of the finest farmers and land we have. We will be absolutely decimated.”
Mr O’Flynn said farming, industry, housing and quality of life in the area was all in question.
“Can we stand idly by and allow this to happen? I call on the council to do whatever necessary to get back the 2018 regulations.”
In contrast, Green Party councillor Alan O’Connor compared the pearl mussel issue to the ongoing saga with the Retail Outlet Park for East Cork.
“The issue of the retail outlet centre and the freshwater pearl mussel are actually two sides of the same coin. The resistance being met to these things is a reflection that legislation is beginning to turn to reflect the environmental and wildlife crisis that we actually do really face at the moment.
“If the EU biodiversity strategy which was released during the week was any indicator that resistance is only going to get stronger and more stringent.”
Mr O’Connor said it didn’t have to be either or in relation to the economy and the environment.
“It is not housing and development or wildlife, there are options, it just means we change how we do business.”
Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey said the underlying rationale for the 2018 legislation was still relevant and the council would write to Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan seeking a meeting on the issue.