Posted by: fermoyweir | June 15, 2010

Minister Lenihan tells Fermoy Rowing Club “It’s Over”

I’ve just spoken with Minister Conor Lenihan and he says that, once the repairs are carried out, then as far as he’s concerned this is over. I raised my concerns about the Southern Regional Fisheries Board and their recent press statements to the effect that they intend to push for the replacement of the weir. He replied that the impetus for all of this is coming from the EU and that they have already stated that repair will satisfy them. He further said that the Attorney General is happy that the repair of the weir will meet our obligations under EU law. 

We in Fermoy Rowing Club are very relieved at the decision by Fermoy Town Council to meet its obligation as the owners of Fermoy Weir. We thank them for taking what we recognise was a very difficult decison, but as the outgoing Mayor Noel McCarthy suggested, future generations would not forgive any of us if we allowed the heart and soul of our town to be ripped out. Councillor McCarthy worked tirelessly throughout his year as Mayor to resolve the problem and every one of his colleagues on the Council had the very best interests of the town, the Rowing Club and the other river-users at heart. Rowing Club President, Councillor John Murphy said that it was his honour to propose the motion to fund the repair of the cornerstone of Fermoy Town. The motion was seconded by Councillor Tadgh O’Donovan.

Fermoy Rowing Club last year celebrated the 125th anniversary of its formal establishment. In our time we have inspired and nurtured thousands of young athletes, international and national champions and produced two Olympic oarsmen. We presently have more than eighty members under the age of eighteen.

We have fought a long and hard battle against a determined campaign by officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, spurred on by the Southern Regional Fisheries Board, to remove Fermoy Weir. We were smeared in the national press by DCENR officials as having “deeply suspect… motivations”. Our Olympian, Gearoid Towey, refused at the time to take the bait and responded, simply and truthfully, “we’re just trying to save our club”.

The SRFB and officials from the DCENR made repeated public claims that the EU was planning on fining Ireland “tens of millions of Euro” if the weir was not replaced with their Rock Ramp pass. We travelled to Europe last year with representatives from local angling groups and we put the lie to this claim. We established, to the satisfaction of the EU and the Irish Attorney General, that the repair of the salmon ladder would meet Ireland’s obligations under EU law.

It should be noted that Sean Sherlock TD has suggested in the Dail that the Southern Regional Fisheries Board “may or may not have been the originators of the complaint” which started this problem in the first place. The SRFB claims to have lost some files to flooding last year and were thus unable to fully answer our recent Freedom of Information request. This must have been terribly inconvenient for them.

With a weir in Fermoy since the foundation of the Cistercian Monastery in 1170, the Blackwater is a complex, living environment and for that reason the option of least upheaval is the most desirable. Thus, we have proposed from the beginning that the existing weir be repaired. The river is not the property of any one group or organisation but rather it is in trust to the people. The Councillors deserve every praise for their diligence and dedication in this matter.

Minister Conor Lenihan did more for us than any of his predecessors. He travelled down to Castlehyde with us and he marvelled at the great beauty of the Blackwater. He even went for a swim in the river and he seemed to have an understanding of what was at stake for the Rowing Club and the town of Fermoy. We are very grateful to our local TDs who have worked hard for us. Former MEP Kathy Sinnott provided invaluable help at European level. In fact, if not for Kathy inviting us to Brussels we would probably be looking at a rock ramp pass in Fermoy right now. Our Town and County Councillors have been a huge support also and have shown that they can work together for a shared purpose.

We can never repay all of the people who have supported us. The anglers and the other sports clubs have spoken with one voice and told the bureaucrats that our river belongs to us, the people of the town. And the people of Fermoy (and beyond) have shown their love of their river and we will never forget that.

With now less than eighty days to save the weir, we will be monitoring the repairs.

Thank you from all in Fermoy Rowing Club.

Best regards,

Donal O’Keeffe.

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