Ireland, along with all other member states of the European Union, is obliged under the Habitats and Birds Directives to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for the protection of important habitats and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the protection of birds. These sites are known collectively as Natura 2000 and are selected subject to certain criteria laid out in the Directives. Areas may also be designated as Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) under the Wildlife Act.
Ireland’s network of Natura 2000 sites is largely complete at this stage and I have no intention to propose further areas for designation at the location referred to by the Deputy, which already has a number of such sites, including Baldoyle Bay and Howth Head Coast SPAs, as well as Baldoyle Bay and Howth Head Coast SACs. While the designated areas do not cover the entirety of the Velvet Strand area referred to in the Deputy's Question, a portion of that area is within the Baldoyle Bay SAC.
While designation under the Birds and Habitats Directives, or under the Wildlife Act, focuses on the nature protection issues, there are also additional mechanisms available to local authorities under the planning code to protect areas. For example, local authorities, in drawing up their development plans under the Planning Acts, have a broader responsibility for protecting high amenity areas from inappropriate development. In this regard, I understand that a portion of Howth Head is subject to a Special Amenity Area Order under the planning code.