Bank holiday bathers should have peace of mind – pass the Dublin Bay Bill

Ivana Bacik TD
03 June 2023

As Dubliners get ready to head to our coasts to celebrate the sunny Bank Holiday weekend, Labour Leader and TD for Dublin Bay South Ivana Bacik has called on the government to make good on its commitment to her and to pass the Dublin Bay Bill.

Deputy Bacik tabled the Dublin Bay Bill last year which proposes the establishment of a Dublin Bay Authority to conserve the natural amenity, to direct the development of the bay, and to protect swimmers’ health.

Deputy Bacik said:

“All Dubliners have strong connections to our coastline. Since the pandemic, people are using the Bay as a location for swimming, sailing and paddling in greater and greater numbers. Yet this wonderful natural amenity has been neglected for decades. Unfortunately, that neglect has consequences for our natural environment and public health.

“Not long ago 300,000 tonnes of sewage sludge were dumped in the Bay every year. However, all is not rosy now.

“Today for instance 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. I have received emails from constituents who report that they and their pets have acquired stomach bugs after swimming in the water. It is really not good enough that the Bay should be allowed to fall into decay and disrepair when we are so lucky to have it right on our doorstep.

“It is for that reason that I proposed the Dublin Bay Bill back in 2021. If passed, it would establish a new statutory Dublin Bay Taskforce which would have a 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, and
  • 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 the Bay will be a priority for the new Authority. However, it will also have a mandate to improve access and facilities around Dublin Bay.

“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 uses that we need to see back at Dublin Bay. They 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 access for people with a disability, and delivering new recreational facilities for all of Dublin.

“The sunny weather will doubtless lead many people to the coast this weekend. While some positive progress has been made to made entry to the water more accessible for people with mobility challenges, so much more is needed. With the right ambition, we could see the remarkable potential of our Bay realised for the benefit of all Dubliners, and for visitors to the Capital too.

“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.

“During a Dáil debate on my Bill back in December, I was encouraged by the warm response from TDs of all parties and none. Indeed, the Minister for Housing, who has responsibility for the Bay, committed to engaging with me to examine how best to implement Labour’s vision for the coast.

“It is disappointing that, in the six months since then, little has been done. Constituents of mine want to know when the Bill will pass, and when they can swim stress-free, safe in the knowledge that water treatment is underway and pollution has been tackled.

“We need a joined-up approach to the future protection and enhancement of Dublin Bay. We need to act now, and my proposal is a necessary first step to change how we treat Dublin Bay and realise its remarkable potential. I am calling on the Government to work with me to pass the Dublin Bay Bill.”

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