The Gweebarra River Valley and the surrounding townlands in South West Donegal is a unique landscape which supports many protected species and habitats. These include wild deer and salmon, a 500 strong common seal population and several protected bird species like Golden Eagles, Northern Bullfinches, Grouse and Corncrakes. As such the Gweebarra is a Natura 2000 site and an EU Designated Area of Conservation which means it is supposed to be protected by law from developments which would have a negative environmental impact.
The area is also rich in cultural history and the ancient archaeological sites and the stone built cottages and walls it contains are also protected by Irish and EU law.
In ancient Ireland one of the five great highways from Tara ran north to Lough Neagh and from there to Griánan of Aileach and south to Inniskeel Island. This road ran the length of the Gweebarra River and Bay before going south to Narin and Portnoo.
The Royal Irish Academy excavated some 2000 prehistoric artefacts at the dunes in Dooey, some of the tallest in Ireland, in the 1950’s and, in addition to the medieval ruins associated with St Conail on Inniskeel Island and on the banks of the Gweebarra river, there are numerous unexcavated archaeological sites in this area.
However the Gweebarra, its unique environment and its people, are now under threat from mining prospectors, high voltage power lines and industrial wind farms which carry health concerns for the local community and would impact negatively on their livelihoods.
Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, granted a prospecting license in 50 townlands around the Gweebarra, including the river bed and the Bay, to Mytillus Mining Ltd in March of this year, ignoring the many submissions he received from local people objecting to the license. If metals are found, cyanide is used to extract the metals in open cast mines.
The Gweebarra Conservation Group is concerned that any disturbance to the lands at Dooey or the Gweebarra River and Bay itself, would be disastrous for this unique environment.
In an email to the Gweebarra Conservation Group, Minister Eamon Ryan has said it is his Government’s intention, under the Grid 2025 Plan, to increase the wind energy production in Donegal to 690MW, representing a land grab of 3,000 hectares which would badly impact on the health and livelihood of the people in South West Donegal. Donegal already produces more wind energy than any other county in Ireland and there is no regulation of how much should be produced in each county. Indeed most counties have no wind turbines.
The Gweebarra Conservation Group is asking
Why are the wind energy companies, the electricity companies and the mining companies allowed to break the laws protecting the environment for profit while the rest of us must abide by the law?
And why should the poor, marginalised and largely Gaelic speaking population of South West Donegal be forced to bear the environmental burden of producing more than half the projected wind energy production in Ireland by 2025?
This is an environmental injustice which is illegal under International Law. The human impact is too great for the residents of South West Donegal whose health and the very ground they walk on is now under threat. Minister Eamon Ryan has refused to meet the Gweebarra Conservation Group who are holding a Public Meeting in Elliott’s Lounge in Leitirmacaward on Saturday, June 12th at 4.00pm to discuss the prospecting license; high voltage power lines; industrial wind farms and the growing litter problem as a result of the increased recycling charges by Donegal County Council.
Local residents and holiday home owners are urged to attend! For more information email GweebarraConservation@gmail.com or see the Group’s Facebook site.