The British government should drop its territorial claim over Lough Foyle before it causes any further economic and ecological damage, Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson has said.
The Foyle Assembly member was commenting after Stormont’s Agriculture committee received an update on the territorial dispute after London renewed its claim ownership of the lough in 2016.
Following partition in 1922, the British government first claimed ownership of the lough, which is located between counties Derry and Donegal. London’s claim was never accepted by any 26 County government.
The British government’s stance means it claims ownership of the east bank of Inishowen in County Donegal, right up to the high water mark.
Ownership of the huge estuary has implications for shore-front developments and fisheries licences and also raises jurisdiction issues for Gardai police over permission to go onto the shore below that mark.
Ms Anderson said: “This dispute has created a legislative limbo for the Loughs Agency who informed the committee that they have been unable to implement a robust aquaculture plan on the Lough.
“Twenty million pounds has also been lost in licensing revenue and there has been an upsurge in unregulated oyster catching which is likely to have a damaging impact on the environment and fish stocks.
“This economic and ecological damage is a direct result of Britain’s baseless claim over Lough Foyle.”
Ms Anderson said that claim should be dropped immediately and said the Dublin Government should reassert the fact that “Lough Foyle is and always has been part of Ireland”.
“Lough Foyle is a key strategic asset for the North West and clearly its future is better served within the EU and under the protection of the various European environmental directives, the Common Fisheries Policy and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
“Brexit has therefore heightened the need to resolve this territorial dispute and I will be making urgent representations to Dublin’s Department for Foreign Affairs and the North South Ministerial Council on the time ahead.”