Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots MLA has visited Rathlin Island to see its wide variety of seabirds and hear of the Island’s ambitious plans to become carbon neutral.
During his visit, Minister Poots met with representatives from The Rathlin Development and Community Association who have a strong ambition for the Island to become carbon neutral and have been exploring a number of renewable energy options.
The Association is a partner in the Clean Energy for EU islands project, which aims to provide a long-term framework to help islands generate their own sustainable, low cost energy; resulting in reduced energy costs and greatly increased production of renewable energy; better energy security for islands, which will be less reliant on imports; improved air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and less impact on islands’ natural environments, as well as the creation of new jobs and business opportunities, boosting the islands’ economic self-sufficiency.
Welcoming the Island’s ambitions, Minister Poots said: “I am delighted to visit Rathlin and meet with the local community. I admire Rathlin’s strong ambition to reduce emissions and become carbon neutral, this is aligned to my vision for Green Growth and climate action and I very much welcome the Island’s efforts to realise this goal.”
Rathlin Island is also Northern Ireland’s most important seabird colony and in summer the sea cliffs and sea stacks provide nesting sites for a variety of seabirds, including nationally important colonies of guillemot, razorbill and kittiwake. Northern Ireland’s largest populations of puffin also breed among the grassy slopes of the cliff ledges. During his visit, the Minister enjoyed a boat trip to observe the puffins and other iconic seabirds at their nesting site. The protected breeding seabird colonies are considered to be at risk, due to a number of external factors including milder winters and the lower availability of small fish.
Much of Rathlin Island and the seas around it are protected areas and while this restricts some activities, the Rathlin community is keen to recognise that the development and promotion of Rathlin tourism and environmental products is key to growth of the island economy.
Commenting on this, Minister Poots said: “I recognise the issues that Rathlin faces, both from external and internal factors, and I remain committed to working with the local Community, RSPB and other partners to deliver collaborative community led-projects that provide long term protection for the Island’s seabirds and, importantly, supports community recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“My Department has provided funding of £38,000 over the past year for environmental activities on Rathlin, including £8,000 to RSPB for a community engagement officer and £30,000 to Causeway Coastal and Glens Heritage Trust to develop a seabird recovery project for the Island. This funding has enabled them to work with the Rathlin community on the development of projects to protect and restore seabird populations on the island. It has also enabled Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust to work with Rathlin farmers on other environmental projects, including the management of geese on farmlands.”
The seas around Rathlin are rich in biodiversity and is an important Marine Protected Area featuring reefs, sea caves, sandbanks, seals, various bird species, deep-sea habitat, maritime cliffs and geological structures. This includes kelp, seagrass and maerl that are natural carbon stores, often referred to as blue carbon habitats, and considered to be as important as peatlands.
Concluding, Minister Poots said: “Rathlin Island and the seas surrounding it provide significant economic opportunities and it is important that these are explored and developed whilst maintaining the environmental ethos of the Island and ensuring the views of the Rathlin community are considered. The seas around Rathlin are rich in biodiversity and effective management of the marine protected area will protect and enhance these for future generations. I very much appreciate the work of the RDCA and the positive approach they have taken to working with nature.”
Positive Impact of Good Relations Projects
The Executive’s commitment towards the delivery of good relations projects in 2021/22 is another key step towards building a united and shared society, Ministers have said.
First Minister Paul Givan and Education Minister Michelle McIlveen were speaking in Limavady during a visit to a T:BUC Camp being delivered by Roe Valley Residents Association. There they saw first-hand how the Executive’s Together: Building a United Community Strategy is actively bringing young people from different backgrounds and traditions together.
First Minister Paul Givan said: “The amazing work of initiatives such as the T:BUC Camp delivered by Roe Valley Residents Association is an example of how T:BUC funding is helping to engender real and lasting societal change.
“The T:BUC Camps Programme is inspiring. It is a great example of the incredible good relations work that is helping to bring about positive change across so many communities here.
“The Camps Programme is a key headline action of the T:BUC Strategy and reflects the Executive’s ongoing commitment to ending division and improving community relations. The camps bring people of different backgrounds and traditions together for shared activities. This not only breaks down barriers in the present, but has a profound and lasting impact in creating a better future.
“This effort plays a key role in helping us continue the journey towards creating a more united and shared society.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The amazing work being carried out through the T:BUC Camps programme and across the wider T:BUC Strategy is helping to bring people from different cultural traditions together and engender real and lasting societal change.
“The Executive is committed to the good relations journey and to continuing to support projects working towards our goal of creating a truly equal and shared society where everyone can live together, free from intolerance, discrimination and prejudice.”
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen added: “The T:BUC Camps programme is an important initiative which demonstrates what can be achieved through a joined up approach involving The Executive Office, the Department of Education and the Education Authority, bringing together young people from different community backgrounds.
“For some young people a T:BUC Camp can be the first opportunity to come together on a cross-community basis to meet people they may not otherwise do. It is an opportunity to take part in an exciting programme as well as making new friends.
“I hope there are some young people here today who will want to build on the experience gained in their involvement in the T:BUC camps programme and I would encourage that very much.”
Council and PSNI Make Joint Appeal Over Removal of River Bann Lifesaving Aids
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and the PSNI have issued a joint appeal following the sustained deliberate removal of lifesaving equipment along the River Bann.
The situation came to a head last week, when 11 individual lifelines were taken, leaving no emergency aids in place from the Old Bridge at Christie Park to the Cutts at Castleroe.
Throwlines and buoyancy aids can make the difference between life and death, and there is a growing concern that a tragedy will occur if this type of mindless behaviour continues.
The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Richard Holmes, said: “This vital equipment is provided for the simple purpose of keeping people safe, and it is beyond belief that it would be removed or destroyed.
“To take all 11 lifelines, leaving a long stretch of riverbank without emergency equipment, is a disgrace and we cannot allow this to continue.
“To those behind this – it must stop before it’s too late. An emergency can arise at any time. It could be your friend or family member in need and this equipment could save their live.
“To anyone who witnesses such irresponsible behaviour please make sure to report it immediately and help us address this grave situation.”
Supporting the Mayor’s comments, Sergeant Clare Sweeney said: “It defies belief that people are willing to put the lives of others at risk through such reckless action.
We are appealing for anyone who witnessed the lines being taken or saw anything suspicious in the area earlier this week to contact us on 101 quoting reference 537 of June 25th. A report can also be made using the online reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport. Alternatively, information can be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.