The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force have, in their own words, been “actively campaigning for effective marine legislation for Northern Ireland through the UK Marine Act and Northern Ireland Marine Bill since 2004.”
Last week NIMTF welcomed the renewed support of MLAs from Alliance, SDLP, DUP and Sinn Féin. And yesterday some 200 schoolchildren arrived at Stormont to lobby for the Bill.
Over in Scotland, the ownership of the sea bed has been the subject of controversy.
The SNP demanding the transfer of the rights related to offshore wind farms and other projects from the Crown estate to the Scottish government.
Perhaps because Northern Ireland doesn’t lay claim to any oil reserves, local nationalists have been rather slower to extend the battle for soveriegnty from the land to the sea.
Minister Attwood says the environment and enterprise departments already have adequate licensing regimes in place for local off shore wind farms.
However questioned about whether Stormont should lay claim to the sea, he says he wouldn’t rule out anything so far as stretching the limits of devolution is concerned.
And then, perhaps, the Northern Ireland Executive could open negotiations with the Irish Government on the long-running dispute over certain territorial waters… [*ahem* – Ed]
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office underlined its view on 2 June 2009 that all of Lough Foyle is in the United Kingdom, a spokesperson stating:
“The UK position is that the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK. We recognise that the Irish Government does not accept this position…There are no negotiations currently in progress on this issue. The regulation of activities in the Lough is now the responsibility of the Loughs Agency, a cross-border body established under the Belfast Agreement of 1998.“
I reiterate to the Senator that there has never been any formal agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the delimitation of a territorial water boundary between the two states. In the context of the Good Friday Agreement, a decision was taken to co-operate on foreshore and other issues that arise in the management of the lough from conservation and other points of view.
One of the issues is that the median channel in Carlingford is the navigation channel whereas, as the Deputy knows, living as close as she does to the lough, the navigation channel in Lough Foyle hugs the southern side, which makes it rather more difficult to manage or to negotiate an agreement as to where the territorial waters actually lie. There is no agreement between the two Governments on where the boundary lies, which is a problem that has bedevilled the situation for some time. With regard to the Good Friday Agreement, I remind the Deputy again that the preamble of the Constitution defines the nation in terms of the island and its territorial seas.