Long term plan to aid Mournes blaze recovery

Three Stormont departments are cooperating on a plan to help the Mournes recover from a recent devastating fire.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 5:07 pm
The Mournes fire as seen from Newcastle on the night of April 23. 

Photo: Philip Magowan / Press Eye
The Mournes fire as seen from Newcastle on the night of April 23. Photo: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

The designated ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ in Co Down lost 3.5 square kilometres of valuable heathland in the catastrophic blaze in April that is believed to have been started deliberately.

In the short term, Daera minister Edwin Poots is considering the amount of funding required for “immediate remedial work,” while the finance department will take the lead on an action plan to manage the area’s long term recovery.

The Department of Infrastructure owns a considerable amount of land in the Mournes and minister Nichola Mallon is also involved in planning how to “enhance water quality whilst protecting the environment”.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy chaired a meeting of three departments on Tuesday.

He said: “I called the meeting after visiting the Mournes and seeing at first-hand the devastating impact caused by the fire.

“I am determined that we do all we can, not just to aid recovery in the short-term, but also to develop this area of outstanding natural beauty into the future.”

Mr Poots said: “Wildfires are a threat to people, property, wildlife and the countryside and efforts to fight them are a drain on the public purse. That is why I have established a Strategic Wildfires Group and will be establishing a Wildfire Stakeholders Forum to focus and align efforts to enable us to be best placed to face the wildfire challenges that lie ahead.”

Mr Poots added: “Working in partnership is essential as was evidenced at the recent Mourne fire. The provision of vehicles and staff by my department in support of such wildfire incidents is a great example of this.”