Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

‘People power’ secures extra funding for Ring of Gullion – Fearon

Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon has praised “people power” for the allocation of almost £70,000 in government funding for the Ring of Gullion area.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan recently announced that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will receive an extra £68,794 to undertake environmental initiatives in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The funding for 2016/17 is part of the Environment Fund managed by DoE which has been made available to eligible organisations to protect and improve our habitats, the quality of our air and water, and access to the natural environment.

Announcing the award, Minister Durkan said: “This funding will go directly towards enhancing the Ring of Gullion, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that is one of our most beautiful landscapes in the North. It will also bring benefits to the local communities who engage and take pride in this valued landscape where they live and work.

“Habitats, species and woodlands in this area will benefit with particular emphasis being placed on improving the quality of key habitats such as heather moorlands and addressing threats to the environment by undertaking initiatives to reduce the risks of wildfire and invasive species. The projects will also provide volunteering opportunities and include initiatives to maintain and enhance walking routes in the Ring of Gullion.

“In a very difficult financial climate, I pledged that I would try and find funding to continue to support environmental groups and projects across the North in the future. I can confirm that, with close management of my budget, I can award £68,794 to Newry Mourne and Down District Council for Ring of Gullion as part of a wider Environment Fund.”

Council Chairperson Michael Ruane welcomed the funding boost saying: “Our natural environment is what underpins who we are, what we do, where we live and contributes to happy healthy people and communities. I am delighted that, after a year in which central government funding to the sector went through considerable uncertainty, the Department of the Environment through the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has now awarded the Ring of Gullion, Strangford & Lecale and our partners in the Mourne Heritage Trust funding to continue the essential work managing our most precious landscape and our internationally important marine life and coastal birds in our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I look forward to working with the NIEA in the future to securing a long lasting partnership approach to managing and resourcing these valuable landscapes, our home.”

While welcoming the additional funding, Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon said it is a victory for “people power”, referring to the Minister’s initial plan to cut the funding.

“I’m delighted that the Environment Minister has finally seen the error of his ways and has rowed back on previous decisions to cut all funding from the Ring of Gullion.  It’s shameful that it took a concerted campaign from people in the area, including a hugely successful online petition, to get the Minister to realise his mistake, but in the end people power has won.  The most important thing is that the Ring of Gullion, the jewel in the crown of south Armagh tourism, will continue to get the support it needs,” she said.