I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for coming to respond to the matter I have tabled on the protection of Liffey Valley parklands and the area around the Liffey. I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise the important issue of protecting the Liffey Valley parklands and to seek to progress the issue by obtaining an update from the Minister on the work of the Department on the issue, as well as his view on the need to co-ordinate the effort to maintain and embrace these lands.
I recently attended the very successful AGM of the Liffey Valley Park Alliance, an organisation founded some years ago to protect the lands. It works very strongly with the local community to further this aim. The commitment and determination of these individuals in trying to protect these lands is extraordinary, and they are committed to ensuring the lands are protected for the benefit of the community.
There are three principles arising from this issue. First, the Liffey Valley lands must be permanently protected and I would like some information in that respect. I have raised this point before and I would like to know what progress the Minister and his Department has made on it. What stage is the process at and does the Minister intend to introduce legislation to the Dáil and Seanad? Is he still in consultation, for example, with South Dublin County Council or has that period of consultation finished? The key question is whether there are plans to introduce legislation.
Second, it was pointed out at the recent meeting I attended that there is much potential for tourism in these lands. The Liffey Valley is one of the finest landscapes in the Leinster region and there is a strong feeling that this is not being harnessed. There is a belief, for example, that the maintenance and care is uneven and not of a consistent standard. That is critical because safety, maintenance and landscaping issues arise.
Third, in order to harness the potential of the area there should be co-ordinated management. The Minister of State is aware that the Liffey Valley lands cut across four different county council jurisdictions, making an holistic view of management very difficult. However, a report was commissioned by the Office of Public Works and one of the conclusions was that the OPW should be given a much greater role in managing the area, bringing together the various councils and ensuring a co-ordinated approach. That does not mean the OPW would do everything but it would take a co-ordinating role. The role of the councils would become clear and strategies and activities could be planned properly.
There is a precedent for this sort of management in the Lagan Valley area. That cuts across three local authorities but is now managed by a Government agency. It has been very successfully promoted and protected, both for local residents and as a tourist attraction. The commissioned report made these recommendations but why is there resistance to implementing its recommendations? Why has it not been acted upon?
I would like to hear the Minister's views on the concept of the co-ordinated management that is needed and I would like the issue to be progressed. There is already infrastructure in place, including a tourist structure and outdoor activities, but we need the Government and councils to work together to develop and promote the Liffey Valley in order to protect it and develop its potential. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's comments on the issue and I hope he can report some progress.