Stormont Ministers have acknowledged there’s an absence of Executive level responsibility for the ongoing erosion of Magilligan point, which has seen acres of farm land lost to the sea and Lough Foyle over recent decades.
Environment Minister Michelle McIlveen, however, promised to liaise with her Ministerial partners, including Infrastrucure Minister Chris Hazzard, to try to address coastal erosion strategically.
Ms McIlveen was asked about the problem by SDLP MLA Gerry Mullan, who as a long-term Aghanloo resident, is only too aware of the situation unfolding a few miles to the north.
The Environment Minister said: “The coast forms part of a highly dynamic system. As such, it will be subject periodically to the natural process of coastal erosion.
“This is particularly true of sandy beaches and dune systems, which are a feature around Magilligan.”
The Minister acknowledged that there is currently an absence of responsibility for the phenomenon.
“You will know that my Department’s specific coastal management responsibilities are in relation to marine licensing and nature conservation protection. It has no responsibility for the coastal erosion risk management function. No department has that function currently,” she added.
Steps are already being taken to bring a more focused approach to the problem, which has resulted in large swathes of land being gradually swept into the sea.
“I have met with Chris Hazzard MLA, Minister for Infrastructure, to discuss the way forward for the Coastal Forum, which I established in my previous role as the Minister for Regional Development. Its aim is to address the issues around coastal management in a strategic way - in particular, coastal erosion. We have agreed to co-Chair its meetings,” said Ms McIlveen.
“It has been accepted by the Coastal Forum that there is a need for completion of a robust scientific evidence base on coastal processes aound Northern Ireland. I expect this to be one of the key workstreams that the Coastal Forum will help to deliver. I will continue to work closely with Chris Hazzard MLA, Minister for Infrastructure, on this issue,” she said.