April has been a month focused on biodiversity, both with the launch of the Biodiversity Loss Report by the Citizens’ Assembly and with some recent trips across the vast constituency of Ireland South from Bray to the Blasket Islands. Having the ability to step out into nature this month and meet various local groups who are actively involved in the restoration of nature and the protection of the Irish landscape, gave me the chance to put into perspective the very real and urgent recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.
The Recommendations and Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss recommends that the State must take prompt, decisive and urgent action to address biodiversity loss and restoration and must provide leadership in protecting Ireland’s biodiversity for future generations. In order to achieve this, the report itself contains 159 recommendations, agreed by 99 members of the Assembly. Additionally, the report expresses the Assembly’s disappointment at the State’s failure to adequately fund, implement and enforce existing laws and policies around biodiversity. This reality echoes how many of us, particularly policymakers, have lost touch with the natural side of Ireland.
This natural side of Ireland is our bedrock and foundation for building thriving societies and economies. Prior to joining the EU, Ireland had failed entirely to maintain and support Ireland’s biodiversity. My recent visits to Bray in Co. Wicklow and the Blasket Islands brought me back into nature, as I connected with a wide range of environmental and biodiversity groups and engaged in outdoor walks and activities. One such activity included a beach clean with Flossie Donnelly, whose brainchild organisation ‘Flossie and the Beach Cleaners’ has encouraged beach clean activities all over Ireland, including on Tragumna beach with Skibbereen Community School last year.
Recently, I had the privilege of meeting Tidy Towns groups which are increasingly focused on the issues of biodiversity loss in Ireland. Every group that I met with had something to offer and were doing their own bit to help the environment and maintain the local biodiversity standards. One volunteer tree planting initiative has transformed a former golf course into a forested area which is being rewilded with native tree species. Some local tidy towns groups are also busy planting with a focus on planting bee friendly plants along what used to be a concrete ledge. These kinds of activities involve the local community, including a lot of young people, while also attracting and supporting the local bees, a win-win for biodiversity!
These examples highlight the steps that local groups across Ireland are taking to protect and enhance Ireland’s natural environment. In order for people to thrive, the natural environment must thrive. This reality of needing to protect nature in order to protect humans is highlighted through the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendation that nature be provided with protections within the constitution to allow it to continue to provide the necessities of life. These necessities include food, clean freshwater, air and soil, in addition to a clean and healthy environment, which supports all of our communities.
From travelling across the beaches and cliffs of Ireland to exploring the beauty of the Blasket Islands, April has been a strong month of nature and biodiversity, which Ireland has plenty to offer, but this remains under threat. Seeing the importance of protecting our landscape, echoed through the Recommendations and Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, offers both a sense of urgency and hope for Ireland’s future.