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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

“Lough Neagh is in crisis” - councillors call for action while DAERA accused of being “very quiet”

Cllr Annemarie Logue inspects the blue green algae  at the blue bridge area in Crumlin.

Cllr Annemarie Logue inspects the blue green algae  at the blue bridge area in Crumlin. (Image: Cllr Lucille O’Hagan)

A Sinn Fein motion for a working group of relevant agencies to be established to address the Lough Neagh “crisis” was given the support of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council at a meeting on Monday evening.

Airport Councillor Annemarie Logue proposed the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) immediately establishes a body comprising of DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Public Health Agency, NI Water, Food Standards Agency, Inland Fisheries and the four councils that border the lough to develop a strategy to “address the poor water quality, and in particular, the impact of toxic blue green algae affecting Lough Neagh and its impact on the environment, the lough’s residents, businesses and recreational users”.

“Lough Neagh is in crisis. What we have seen over the summer is years of neglect and abuse of the lough,” she said.  Cllr Logue told the meeting the blue green algae has spread to such an extent that it is visible by satellite

“The council issued bathing warnings at Rea’s Wood as the water turned luminous,” she stated.  She added public confidence has “plummeted” and the lough has reached “a tipping point”.

Seconding the motion, party colleague Dunsilly Cllr Henry Cushinan continued: “It is impossible to live in my community and not feel a connection to the lough. When I first became aware of the issue in the summer, I reported it to the relevant authorities. Only by working together can we hope to redress this ecological disaster.”

Airport DUP group leader Alderman Matthew Magill said: “The lough is an integral part of people’s lives in this area.  It is important that we see action in relation to this issue. We feel that there needs to be focus in relation to those who currently have statutory responsibility for our water ways.

“We do not need the creation of another arm’s-length body. I think it is widely accepted that we need action to resolve concerns in relation to Lough Neagh, We feel another body would be over-complicating the matter.”

Glengormley Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman said:

“DAERA has been very quiet on the overall issue. I think there is a lot of concern about the role of DAERA and they are not taking responsibility for this issue.

“If local councils do not hold those departments to account, who will?  We have to do it on behalf of our constituents because no-one else is there to do it.”

The motion was carried after a vote in which 17 councillors were in favour with 13 against and six abstentions.

Dunsilly Alliance Cllr Jay Burbank asked chief executive Jacqui Dixon to write to DAERA and its agencies to come in person to a full council meeting to “show their actions on the current crisis” and to be scrutinised by councillors.

This proposal was seconded by party colleague Airport Alliance Cllr Andrew McAuley.

Antrim DUP Cllr Paul Dunlop BEM commented: “I think that is of benefit. Our party has strong views about what is happening on the lough.”

Ald Magill added: “I think we are all in agreement in terms of the issue concerned and want to see action in relation to it.”

Glengormley Ulster Unionist Ald Mark Cosgrove stated that requesting DAERA and its agencies to be questioned by members will “get to the crux of the matter”.

Threemilewater DUP Ald Stephen Ross asked that the council writes to DAERA to ask for a “full map of slurry” spread on land in the council area and contact the Department for the Economy to ask about abandoned mines in Northern Ireland.


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