Council Chairperson delivers message following Mourne mountain fires.
Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin, has expressed continuing gratitude and support to everyone involved in responding to the major wildfire incident on the Mourne Mountains over the weekend.
Cllr Devlin said: “The wildfires have been absolutely devastating for our environment, wildlife and landscape. It is heart-breaking and very hard to stomach that parts of our Mourne Mountains and its habitats were damaged and so badly impacted by this incident.
“I live outside Castlewellan and represent the Mournes District Electoral Area, so to see the fires spreading on Friday night was somewhat surreal. My son, who is almost five years of age, described it as a volcano and that is exactly what it resembled.
“I want to say a huge thank you to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and all the emergency services and government agencies who assisted with this incident. They were all incredible, working under very challenging conditions.
“The images released of Fire and Rescue Service personnel high up in the mountains on charred ground, with the Irish Sea as a backdrop, was harrowing. I would also like to say a massive thank you to the business and local community who, as ever, rallied round with food and supplies and gave continued verbal support and encouragement to all involved.
“This is testament to the respect and support that the Fire and Rescue Service has in the wider Newcastle area and our love of the Mourne Mountains. I would also like to highlight the amazing work done by Mourne Heritage Trust. They really cherish our landscape and all within it, however, more funding needs to be allocated to their area of work.”
Cllr Devlin added: “There needs to be a full review of exactly what happened over the coming days. The Fire and Rescue Service has indicated that the fire may have been caused deliberately, which is naturally very concerning.
“Whether it was due to carelessness, or a deliberate act, we need to learn lessons and take appropriate action to reduce the risk of such an incident reoccurring. We need long-term resources for preventative management and specialist training for dealing with future wildfires.
“We know we have significant visitor management issues in the Mournes and we in the Council are doing our best to tackle this challenging matter. There are so many different stakeholder interests in the Mourne Mountains, from both from a local district and wider tourism perspective.
“What is needed is an overarching and funded visitor management strategy from central government. If anything, this weekend has again shone a spotlight on this need.
“We know people visit the Mournes for its stunning natural environment and landscape. I am confident what has happened will not deter people from visiting in the future. However, we really need that sharp focus on responsible and sustainable tourism, which again goes back to my point for the need of an overarching strategy for visitor management and preventative management for such wildfires,” said Cllr Devlin.