In January 2012 I suggested there might be some cause for optimism that the unresolved issue of the delimitation of the territorial water boundary between the UK and the Republic of Ireland could be, erm, resolved. As the then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, TD, said at the time.
Recently the two Governments agreed to address issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough in the round. A first meeting of officials took place last week in London. While the issues involved – including the roles of the Crown Estate and all other relevant actors – are complex I am satisfied that both sides are committed to resolving them as soon as possible.
But, apparently not. According to this 26 June 2015 Derry Journal report
Barry Fox, Loughs Agency Director of Aquaculture and Shellfisheries, said the lack of progress on sorting out the border issue was “massively” impacting on the development of businesses such as shellfish farming, with the potential for millions of pounds more to be generated than is the case from the current operations on the lough.
The Loughs Agency was given powers back in 2007 to issue aquaculture licenses, but hasn’t been able to issue a single one because of the territorial dispute.
If this was resolved, the Lough Agency’s licensing powers would allow for rigorous assessment of business proposals for water-based farming operations along the Foyle.
Successful applicants who become properly licensed would then be able to use this to apply to banks for start-up or expansion funds- something none of the businesses operating in the Foyle can do at present.
“With the territory issue between the Crown Estate Commission and the Irish State, until that’s resolved between them there can be no progress on aquaculture licensing on Lough Foyle,” Mr Fox said.
He added that the lack of resolution “is not helping anybody”.
“There is an economic impact, there’s no question of that. There is still money being generated but if it was regulated then people could go on and do a start-up business and there would be a lot more opportunities for people.
“We don’t know when there will be a resolution. There have been small bits and pieces of movement but it could be 12 months or 12 years. We have been given no date for when it will happen, but we are hopeful it will happen.
“It is doable and it will happen, I believe, but it is just a matter of when.”
It was just a matter of “when” back in 2012…
And, apparently, there is a particular problem in Derry/Londonderry [Who knew!? – Ed] From the same report
It is understood that the matter will have to be involve several departments within the Irish government and arms of the British government alongside the Crown Estate.
While it is understood that there is an unofficial ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in operation between the two fisheries departments at Ireland’s other border lough, Carlingford, no such agreement exists over the Foyle. [added emphasis]
The Journal asked the Crown Estate where they believed the international boundary lay
A spokesperson responded: “The exact location of the international boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through Loughs Carlingford and Foyle remains an issue for determination between the UK and Republic of Ireland governments. [added emphasis]
“In this context, The Crown Estate continues to work with the Northern Ireland Executive, The Loughs Agency and local stakeholders for the benefit of all users of the two border Loughs and the protection of their respective environments.”