Labour’s Dublin Bay Bill would promote and protect swimmers’ paradise

Ivana Bacik TD
08 December 2022

Today (Thursday, 8th December), the Dáil will debate Labour’s Dublin Bay Bill to establish a statutory Dublin Bay Authority charged with preserving the distinctive character of Dublin Bay, and protecting its ecology as a coastal resource.

Speaking in advance of the debate, Labour leader and Dublin Bay South TD Ivana Bacik said that it’s time for a new vision for the protection and enhancement of Dublin Bay, particularly with the huge popularity of year-round sea swimming.

Deputy Bacik said:

“Dublin Bay is one of the greatest resources our city has. We all have strong connections to the Bay and many of us share great memories of it too. It’s the view that often welcomes us home when flying into Dublin, it’s where many of us learnt to swim, sail or paddle. For others it’s the location for the opening chapter of Dublin’s great novel, ‘Ulysses’.

“All Dubliners have strong connections to the body of water that stretches from Howth to Sorrento Point. It must be protected and developed accordingly.

“Today, we will call on government to establishment a new Dublin Bay Authority. The Authority will have a very specific mandate:

  • to propose and promote policies and priorities for the protection and enhancement of the environment of Dublin Bay and of the natural habitats and wildlife in and around the Bay,
  • to co-ordinate, promote and support strategic planning and sustainable development in and around Dublin Bay,
  • to make recommendations to regulate and control pollution in and around Dublin Bay,
  • to promote public interest in and respect for Dublin Bay as a public amenity,
  • to co-ordinate the activities of public bodies and other organisations and persons in matters connected with the performance of its functions.

“Membership of the Authority will come from elected members of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly and others with a special expertise or interest in the future protection of Dublin Bay. Environmental protection of Dublin Bay will be a priority for the new Authority.  However, it will also have a mandate to improve access and facilities around Dublin Bay.

“Before and throughout the various Covid lockdowns, the Bay became a true place of refuge for year-round and seasonal sea swimmers but too often we know that the water is simply not at the standard it should be. Water quality is poor, swimming is often prohibited because of pollution concerns and the biodiversity of the Bay is under threat.

“To remedy this, and to ensure safe and clean swimming waters, we are demanding that government extend the practice of water quality testing year round, rather than the current 3 months a year. Swimmers in the Bay use this amenity in the height of summer, as well as the depths of winter. We need to make sure water quality is always up to standard.

“There is also a raft of regeneration work that the Authority should consider. For decades we’ve had to endure the crumbling dereliction of the old Sandymount and Blackrock baths. These were hubs of community activity, hosting swimming contests, water polo matches, and featuring bandstands and music.  These are the type of public amenities that we need to see restored and enhanced around the Dublin Bay area.

“These are projects, not just for one local authority, but for the whole of Dublin. A new Authority with statutory powers could be transformative in improving access, including greater access for people with a disability, and delivering new recreational facilities for all of Dublin.

“The statutory model that I am proposing works. For instance, on the east coast of the US the deterioration and pollutions of Chesapeake Bay in the 1980s motivated political leaders of three States and Washington DC to join together to form a taskforce to save the bay. This focus has seen significant federal funding invested to preserve the future of the Bay, improved water standards and greater responsible use of the Bay local communities.”

Speaking in advance of the debate, Labour Dublin Bay North TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said:

“For too long we have taken Dublin Bay for granted. Not long ago 300,000 tonnes of sewage sludge were dumped in the Bay every year. Today there are real concerns about wastewater discharges from the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment plant and the potential damage that dredging of the port is causing to the ecosystem.

“We need a joined-up approach to the future protection and enhancement of Dublin Bay. We need to act now, and Labour’s proposal is a necessary first step to change how we treat Dublin Bay and realise its remarkable potential.”

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