20. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of progress on items included in the work programme of the Curragh forum for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20382/18 asked on 10 May 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 29 together.
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 in 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 builds on the progress made in the areas under discussion and will be supplemented by new issues arising.
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 finalised in 2018 and as part of this team a new Curragh Maor was recently appointed. 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, illegal encampments and engagement with the public.
A new environmental maintenance contract will be sent to tender shortly. 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.
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 next meeting of the Forum for discussion.
All of these actions form part of the Curragh Forum work-programme for 2018.