Simon Coveney seeks extra funds for Haulbowline Island overhaul

Simon Coveney, the agriculture, food, and marine minister, is to seek Cabinet approval within weeks for a significant increase in funding for the remediation of Haulbowline Island and its toxic waste dump sites in Cork Harbour.

Mr Coveney made the announcement yesterday as he officially reopened the refurbished bridges to the island — the headquarters of the Irish Naval Service.

The bridges have undergone a €1.85m repair and upgrade as part of the preparatory phase of the €40m Haulbowline Island remediation project which will see €8m spent this year alone cleaning the Ispat/Irish Steel east tip and factory sites.

Special porous barriers will be installed around the tip, the dumped material will be capped, and the site will be landscaped over the next two years, transforming the area into a public park.

Mr Coveney said a masterplan to guide an “all-island” approach to remediation, to include the south tip and other island areas, has been prepared.

“In two or three weeks, I will be going back to Cabinet looking for more money to take a ‘whole of island’ approach to remediation,” he said.

It could result in a 50% increase in funding and thus, over €60m being spent cleaning the south tip and other island areas.

“Once completed, this project will usher in an entirely new phase of this island’s long and distinguished history and represents tangible evidence of the Government’s commitment to Cork Harbour and to the wider marine sector,” Mr Coveney said.

He said the island clean-up, combined with UCC’s almost complete Beaufort research lab nearby and the development of Spike Island as a tourism attraction, will unlock the true potential of Cork Harbour.

“People are now talking with a positivity and optimism about this area which we haven’t seen for a generation or more,” he said.

Mr Coveney paid tribute to officials at Cork County Council who are overseeing the work, and to RPS Consulting Engineers and LM Keating Ltd, who delivered the bridge project ahead of time and on budget.

Meanwhile, the multimillion-euro Beaufort lab is due to open this summer. It will house the SFI Centre for Marine Renewable Energy Ireland, employing more than 130 researchers.

Dr Mary O’Leary, an environmental campaigner, said the development of a people’s park on Haulbowline and the Beaufort lab are exactly the kinds of projects Cork Harbour needs. “It is great for the harbour and I hope it will be the beginning of proper development in the area.”

Local councillor Marcia D’Alton said the opening of the upgraded bridges is a great first step for the island where the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the world’s oldest, was founded in 1601.

“This is where recreation and amenity in Cork Harbour started. To have it returned to the people from the industrial wasteland it had become is really quite touching,” she said.

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