Over the past number of months, I have worked with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in Ireland on a Position Paper on Marine Spatial Planning and the role of regional assemblies and local authorities in preparing subnational marine spatial plans. The Position Paper was presented to the elected Members of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly at its June Monthly meeting whereby it was warmly welcomed and fully endorsed by the Assembly. It is published here on the website of the NWRA, and also available to download here (on this website).
The report examines options for the preparation of Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) for the Northern and Western Region (NWR), provides a review of learnings from international best practice, and undertakes a scoping assessment of economic opportunities specific to the marine economy of the NWR. The Paper identifies regional governance options for the rollout of Designated Marine Area Plans and outlines a series of recommendations on practical steps to be taken to progress MSP in the Northern and Western Region. This is the first study to address the regional dimension of marine spatial planning in Ireland and has implications for each of the Irish regional assemblies as they move forward with MSP for the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic coastal waters.
Last week, the FREIIA (Facilitating Resilience Enhancing Islands Innovation Approaches) project team met on the Koster islands in Sweden for two days of intensive meetings and excursions. The Interreg North Sea Programme funded FREIIA project includes researchers and practitioners from a diverse range of organisations in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Germany, with a common focus on the development of better governance for small offshore islands. The Koster islands and Koster National Park are located off the southwest coast of Sweden, close to the border with Norway. They cover an area of approximately 12 square kilometres with a resident population of c. 300 people.
Effective and coherent public safety messaging is essential to ensuring communities are prepared and public authorities can respond rapidly and efficiently in the event of hazard events (whether extreme weather events, major traffic incidents, flooding, regional power cuts epidemics).
Coherent public safety messaging and coordinated response is particularly important for peripheral cross-border regions where authorities and first responders in each jurisdiction might otherwise be following different protocols. Working closely with Monaghan County Council (Republic of Ireland) and the Cross Border Emergency Management Group, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) will conduct applied research with the aim of advancing cross-border public safety messaging on the island of Ireland. This six month project will assess the current delivery of public safety messaging on both sides of the border, examine how public-safety messaging is perceived by diverse sections of the community and develop proposals for the improvement of public-safety messaging through an innovative citizen panel based co-design process. The analysis will follow a Prepare-Response-Recovery Framework, ensuring that all three emergency management phases are given due attention.
For the purposes of this project, I will lead an interdisciplinary research team with expertise in spatial planning, environmental psychology, marketing and community health. The research is funded by the Department of Defence via the Irish Government’s Shared Island Initiative.
Last month, I spoke at the Conference of Irish Geographers about the current developments and future challenges in marine protected area (MPA) management and maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Irish context. In this commentary, I further develop some of the key arguments and proposals from that presentation.
As an island nation, Ireland is surrounded by the sea and has an extensive maritime territory (Figure 1 below). Nevertheless, the sea has often occupied a peripheral position in the national consciousness and politics. There is a prevailing sense that successive Irish governments have ‘turned their backs on the sea’, neglecting this rich resource (e.g. Tom MacSweeney 2008, Kevin O’ Sullivan 2019). Currently, however, Ireland’s marine territory is subject to significant policy attention, indicating perhaps, the beginning of a new relationship between the land and the sea. Irish marine governance is evolving rapidly with the adoption of a National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF), the preparation of a Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, and ambitious targets for the large-scale expansion of Ireland’s MPA network, in line with international commitments. Yet, blind spots and a sense of disjointed policy-making continues with, for example, the lack of marine biodiversity characterization or sensitivity mapping to support the preparation of NMPF. Indeed, by all accounts (the final NMPF will not be made public until June 17th), the NMPF does not provide a map of spatial strategy or an indication of priority areas for specific uses and activities at sea. In this sense, it is very much a policy framework rather than a spatial plan and barely meets the requirements set out under EU MSP Directive. This apparent lack of willingness to provide strategic policy direction in relation to the spatial distribution of activities and priority areas for ecosystem protection at sea is disappointing. As pressures for the development of marine space increase, there is a real risk of a reactive, development-led regime emerging by default.
Figure 1: Ireland’s maritime territory (continental shelf). Source: Marine Institute.
At the forthcoming Conference of Irish Geographers (May 18th-21st, online), I will convene a themed session with Danial Tubridy (UCD Planning) and Liam Carr (NUI Galway Geography) focussed on exploring and developing critical perspectives on coastal and marine governance and their associated geographies.
The finaldeadline for abstract submissions is 30th April (via the conference website). Read on for further details!