That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Curragh of Kildare Act 1961 to make provision for the management and use of the Curragh whereby the Minister may grant a licence to persons for continuous occupation of any part of the Curragh for a specified period of time; and to provide for related matters.
The Curragh is home to the Army and the racing industry. It is a place of great importance from an ecological, archaeological and cultural perspective. It is a great place for local people in which to walk and enjoy as it is bordered by Kildare, Newbridge, Milltown, Athgarvan and Kilcullen. Local people have a great respect for it. For this and many other reasons, it should have the highest level of protection, while affording the opportunity for people, both locally and nationally, to enjoy its beautiful surroundings. Ideally, I would like to see it become a national heritage site. I was in touch with the Minister’s office on this issue, but, sadly, it will not happen. That does not mean, however, that I will not pursue it. We could look for UNESCO world heritage status for the Curragh because it is an important focal point in County Kildare.
The Curragh has its own unique administrative arrangements enshrined in law in the Curragh of Kildare Act 1961. My Bill is an amendment to that Act. For several years there have been ongoing issues with illegal dumping and encampments on the Curragh. They completely take away from its beauty for those who wish to use it daily. After consultation with authorities, it was agreed that this was one possible way of helping to solve one of the particular problems. The Bill proposes that anybody who wishes to occupy the Curragh, by having a vehicle, shelter, tent, caravan or other temporary or moveable structure, will have to apply to the Minister for Defence for a licence. This will give extra protection to ensure we will not have illegal encampments on the Curragh.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to introduce the Bill.