Bacik’s Dublin Bay Bill may hit the right waves

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

A representative of SOS Dublin Bay has welcomed a proposed bill by Labour TD Ivana Bacik earlier this week, which could see a radical new vision to protect Dublin Bay.

Deputy Bacik’s bill proposed a statutory new authority to be appointed, specifically for the protection and enhancement of Dublin Bay, now a popular amenity for all year-round swimmers and water sport enthusiasts.

“Before and throughout the Covid lockdowns, the bay has become a true place of refuge for year-round and seasonal sea swimmers. Water quality is poor, swimming is often prohibited because of pollution concerns and the biodiversity of the bay is under threat.”

She continued: “We need to act now to ensure that the environmental protection of Dublin Bay is a priority, not an afterthought. This week, I introduced legislation into the Dáil to establish a new Dublin Bay authority. 

“This authority will have a very specific mandate to propose and promote policies and priorities for the protection and enhancement of Dublin Bay and its environment, and of the natural habitats and wildlife in and around the bay; to co-ordinate, promote and support strategic planning and sustainable development in and around Dublin Bay; to make recommendations to regulate and control pollution in and around Dublin Bay; to promote public interest in and respect for Dublin Bay as a public amenity and finally, to co-ordinate the activities of public bodies and other organisations and persons in matters connected with the performance of its functions.

The Dublin Bay TD added membership of the authority will come from elected members of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly and others with a special expertise/interest in the future protection of Dublin Bay.

“For decades, we’ve had to endure the crumbling dereliction of the old Sandymount and Blackrock baths. These were once hubs of community activity, hosting swimming contests, water polo matches, and featuring bandstands and music.  These are the type of public uses that we need to see back at Dublin Bay – projects, not just for one local authority, but for the whole of Dublin.”

A new authority with statutory powers, she felt, could be transformative for Dublin Bay. She further cited the success of a similar case in the US, at Chesapeake Bay in the 1980s were leaders of several states united and invested federal funding for the protection of the bay.

Peter Whelehan of SOS Dublin Bay noted significant progress has been made as a result of the pressure exerted on politicians and Irish Water by SOS Dublin Bay. For the first time,  extended water testing beyond September 15 was agreed, plus the extended UV treatment facility at Ringsend Water Treatment Plant left on beyond September 15. However, we remain quite frustrated with the lack of ‘real’ engagement.”

Mr Whelehan acknowledged Deputy Bacik has been liaising with SOS Dublin Bay, and is clearly committed to the future preservation of the bay.

Labour TD Ivana Bacik

Govt in breach of EU Directive

SOS Dublin Bay also believe that Ireland is in breach of the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive as the State has wrongly defined (SI 79-2008), in implementing the legislation, the bathing season as being between June 1 and September 15.  SOS Dublin Bay is considering legal action against the state based on the “bathing season” as defined in the Directive being “when large numbers of bathers can be expected”. 

Given poor Irish weather during winter times which may contribute to poor water conditions, along with overflows from Ringsend, SOS Dublin Bay feels that it is even more urgent for water testing to continue after September 15, and prevent swimmers from suffering notifiable diseases such as gastroenteritis.

Deputy Bacik’s proposed bill was not opposed on Tuesday in the Dáil, and will therefore be taken to the second stage in Private Members’ time.

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