The National Development Plan 2018-2027 sets out the funding allocated to strategic investment priorities in the culture and heritage area, in recognition of its vital role in national life.
Tomorrow I will launch this element of the Plan, with An Taoiseach, Minister Paschal Donohue and my colleague Minister of State Joe McHugh.
In regard to our unique natural heritage, at this point I can say that investment is being provided to support the objectives of the recently published National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, including the stepping up of conservation measures to restore peatlands, wetlands and threatened species, measures to combat the spread of invasive alien species, implementation of Local Biodiversity Action Plans and investment in agri-environment measures to deliver improvements to the network of sites protected under the EU Habitats Directive.
Ireland, like all EU Member States, is bound by the requirements of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. These Directives aim to ensure the protection of habitats and species which have been selected for conservation within special areas of conservation and special protection areas. I will also be investing in conservation measures in designated habitats.
Our National Parks and National Reserves are of course a substantial part of the network of protected areas required under the Habitats Directive and my Department will shortly finalise a masterplan for investment in the Parks and Reserves, ensuring their protection, while providing for enhanced visitor amenities so that Irish and overseas visitors can have an increased awareness of and access to nature and its value.
The prioritization of this investment is driven by the interlinked objectives of community, amenity, conservation and well-being. This is, I believe, the first time a National Development Plan has placed the biodiversity and natural capital agenda at its core and I look forward to delivering on our ambitious targets in that regard.