As the Deputy will be aware, the Curragh Forum was established to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to consider and progress a wide range of issues regarding the use and management of the Curragh Plains.
The most recent meeting of the Forum took place on Friday 12 January 2018. It was attended by representatives of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochána, Kildare County Council, Curragh Racecourse Ltd, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and Horse Racing Ireland. The issues discussed included legislation, traffic, signage and parking issues, illegal encampments, sheep grazing rights, and the ongoing land management and maintenance of the Curragh Plains. It was agreed that progress in all of these areas requires Forum members to take ownership and work collaboratively in identifying and working towards implementing solutions.
A number of key actions were agreed by the members of the Forum to assist in addressing some of these issues. A work-programme was established for 2018 that will build on the progress made in the areas under discussion and will be supplemented by new issues arising. In addition, Kildare Co. Council has agreed that in conjunction with Kildare Fáílte, it will produce a Vision document for the Curragh that will be presented to the Forum for discussion.
On the work-programme, work has been undertaken in identifying suitable locations for the construction of car parking spaces on the Curragh, thus reducing damage to grasslands. The design and associated costings will be progressed in 2018. The new lands management team that the Deputy refers to will be put in place in 2018 and in this regard, it is hoped to appoint a new Curragh Maor very shortly. This team will oversee all activities on the ground including, but not limited to, litter, sheep branding, patrolling, monitoring users of lands, inspection of property boundaries, and engagement with the public. When the new team is fully in place, it is hoped that there will be a new role of engaging in education and outreach.
A new environmental maintenance contract will be sent to tender shortly and there will be ongoing review of the legislation governing the Curragh in parallel with the use of other legislation that can more immediately address relevant issues.
All of these actions form part of the Curragh Forum work-programme for 2018.