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.
On March 7th 2023, I facilitated and led an online stakeholder workshop on marine spatial planning on behalf of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly. Following the publication of Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework and marine spatial planning legislation in 2021, the focus has shifted towards the subnational level. Regional Assemblies can, working together coastal local authorities, potentially play a key role in preparation and coordination of Designated Maritime Area Plans for nearshore areas.
In accordance with the EU MSP directive all EU coastal member states were required to produce marine spatial plans by 2021. Not all have met this deadline but many are now published and adopted by national governments. A key requirement of the MSP directive is that marine spatial plans follow an ecosystem-based approach and contribute to the achievement of Good Environmental Status for marine ecosystems, as set out in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Over the last nine months or so, I have been engaged in the evaluation of selected national-level marine spatial plans, with a view to assessing their degree of alignment with EU environmental legislation and policy objectives. This work has been commissioned by environmental NGOs: Birdlife International and the Irish umbrella NGO Sustainable Water Network (SWAN). In the following, I provide an overview of this work with links to the published reports.
On Wednesday, May 18th, I will chair a webinar, together with Heather Ritchie of Ulster University focused on MSP challenges and opportunities for local authorities on the island of Ireland. The webinar is hosted by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and supported by the Maynooth University Social Science Institute (MUSSI).
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.