THE IRISH AND UK governments have been reasserting their claims to a north coast estuary, after a parliamentary question on the issue was asked in the Westminster parliament.
The issue of territory around Lough Foyle, which has a coastline either side of the River Foyle along counties Donegal and Derry, has been a matter of dispute between Dublin and London ever since partition in 1922.
London claims that the whole estuary, which has approximately 25km of coastline in Donegal, belongs to the UK alone.
The matter was raised by British Labour MP David Anderson, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, last week.
The recently appointed Conservative Secretary of State for the North, James Brokenshire, gave the following reply yesterday:
The Government’s position remains that the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK.
Answering a query from TheJournal.ie, the Department of Foreign Affairs here said ”Ireland has never accepted the UK’s claim” to the whole of the estuary.
Uncertainty concerning the extent to which each side exercises jurisdiction within Lough Foyle has created practical difficulties for the conduct of a number of activities there.
This has included difficulty in creating a system for licencing of aquaculture by the Loughs Agency in accordance with the intentions of the two Governments under the 1999 agreement establishing North/South implementation bodies.
Following discussions in 2011 between the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and British Foreign Secretary, both Governments agreed to seek to address and resolve jurisdictional issues relating to both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.
The 1999 agreement the Department referred to in its statement followed the signing of the Good Friday Agreement the previous year – one of the landmark deals of the Northern Ireland peace process.
A number of meetings have taken place between the two governments in recent years, the DFA said, noting that the issues involved are “complex” and involved “a range of different actors” including the Crown Estates (see below for a complicated explanation on who they are).
The Department stressed:
This is not something we currently envisage as forming part of the negotiations around the UK’s departure from the EU.
Sinn Féin issued a press release yesterday drawing attention to Brokenshire’s answer and calling on the Irish government to challenge London on the issue.
“This is an arrogant and provocative pronouncement from James Brokenshire but unfortunately it is a repeat of previous pronouncements and again and again, previous Irish Governments have failed to sort it out,” Donegal Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said.
I am calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan to immediately challenge this assertion on behalf of the Irish people.
I am also calling on Minister Flanagan to clarify what is the status of the negotiations between the two governments on the ownership of the Lough.
The Loughs Agency tasked with responsibility for managing Lough Foyle by both governments have been repeatedly calling for a resolution so that the real tourism and fisheries potential of the Lough can be fully realised.
Minister Flanagan also needs to clearly outline why agreement has not been reached to date.