Tuesday 22 August 2017 08:11:44 AM

Councillor Carmel O’Boyle: Look at Bigger Picture On National Parks
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THE proposal to set up a National Park in the Mourne’s has caused a firestorm across South Down as the anti-national park lobby has raised its opposition.

The No National Park Lobby organised a public meeting past week in Newcastle in the Shimna Suite which was packed mainly with those opposing the concept of a national park in the Mournes. Also speaking at the meeting were guest speakers from the Brecon Beacons national park in Wales and those opposed to national parks in Fermanagh and Antrim.

However, Down District Councillor Carmel O’Boyle (SDLP) expressed her reservations about the position of the ‘no’ lobby  and said everyone needs to be more circumspect and informed in arriving at this important decision.

She said: “I attended  the anti-National Parks rally in Newcastle, and if the farming community is confident they can survive without a Mourne’s National Park, then the tourism industry must look to its own future.

“There is a proposal ongoing in the UK at the moment to reduce VAT for some tourism-related services and this could be a lifeline in Northern Ireland especially for our local business people in Newcastle and right across Northern Ireland.

“But unfortunately, the days of the Single Farm Payments that farmers receive from Europe (39 million Euros in 2010) are numbered. Also, the Greening Measures that are soon to be introduced by the European Union will reduce farmers’ income by at least 4.98%. 

“However, I am sure that Valerie Hanna and her No National Park group have thought all of this through and seem confident that their futures are bright without a national park.”

At the public meeting, there were strong arguments made against a national park for the Mournes. The arguments now will be made for the pro-national park lobby who are seeking a more urgent and pragmatic solution to South Down’s ailing economy. The farming lobby has vowed to oppose the national park development, and in the process are limiting the options for other economic sections to develop strategies to deal with the current economic climate.