Power to the Picnic: How the people of Malahide Showed their Council what they believe in.

What can be done when elected representatives fail to represent the views of their Constituents? There is always the next election but as we all know a week is a long time in politics and when the next election can be months or perhaps years away, not all of us can remember who exactly it was that sold us down the Swanee. Sometimes, and in our case with the proposed development of Malahide Castle Woodlands, there isn’t time to wait until the next election. We needed to act straightaway.

Last May, our local area Councillors voted against the proposal but in true Irish fashion, another vote was called, but this time allowing for a full vote by all Fingal Councillors. At a Council meeting and vote on July 11th, 40 Fingal County Councillors were invited to vote on this proposal that contained three elements. The details are complicated and frankly boring but one of the elements concerned the development of a ‘Tree-top Canopy walk and Forest adventure’ in Malahide Castle’s Woodlands by a commercial company.  One important detail is that Malahide Castle Demesne is a historic and ancient publicly owned space that is teeming with wildlife. Not one environmental impact or wildlife study was undertaken. The proposal was carried by 18 votes to 16 with 6 absentees with one Councillor citing the Tree-top adventure as a great prevention for obesity. Really Councillor??

CastledemesneBit by bit, sections of this incredible parkland are being chipped away. To be fair, the parklands and the public have greatly benefited by development in the past. We have a huge and gorgeous branch of  Avoca, we have a great Bike Hire Company, we have the brilliant Malahide Cricket Club that has been vital in pushing Irish Cricket to an international level. We have Golf and Tennis in a public facility and an array of playing pitches for the local GAA and Soccer club. There even is a train! Toots The Malahide Road Train pootles up and down between the village and the pathways of the Castle ferrying Visitors.

The Demesne is busy and no doubt the The Talbot Family would be delighted if they could see how much this incredible place is enjoyed everyday. But in the last 5 years, small changes have occurred without much public consultation and now this latest proposal is in my mind a step too far. Whatever about adding a ‘multi-use car park extension’, allowing a business to come in and take over the beautiful peaceful woodlands for profit seems obscene. As it turns out, it is a step to far for many Malahide Residents too, so we are not alone in this.

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So what to do?!?

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Fabian running through the woods on a Summer’s evening.

 

Our petition was still running online and we didn’t halt our social media campaign but rather than standing around complaining about it, a few like-minded individuals put their heads together and planned a Picnic for Saturday Aug 6th at 12 noon. We invited anyone and everyone to come join us to celebrate this beautiful space.  Social Media is our bedfellow in all of this, but Malahide has an older demographic than some other small towns, so we organised and funded leaflet drops and stood outside the Village Church informing elderly parishioners what was happening at their own front door in person. The majority had no idea this was happening and were shocked and angered at the prospect.

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Lisa Bissett takes the stage

We asked people to show their love yesterday and show their love they did. Unusually for an Irish Summer’s Day in early August the weather behaved. There  was a balmy breeze and the sun shone strong in honour of our Woodlands. Hundred’s more people signed our petitions and wrote postcards to the Chief Executive of Fingal County Council. A few people from the campaign spoke publicly to explain what was happening and where we were at. We then asked our picnickers to enjoy their picnic before entering the woods and ‘adopting’ a tree. Ribbons and tags with simple messages were tied around trees throughout the Woodlands. Visually it was perfectly beautiful. The Woods came alive with the sound of families, young people old people, children and dogs enjoying and really appreciating their beautiful surroundings.

The cynic in you might question what did we achieve. I can’t fully answer that question today but I do know that myself and thousands of other people agree that these woods and their wildlife require our protection. We may not be able to stop the Council from destroying these beautiful Woods forever but at least, hand on heart, I know that I stood up and was counted.

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Niamh removing ribbons from the Trees and leaving no trace of our picnic.

If you want to be counted alongside me and many others please sign our online petition.

Petition to Save Malahide Castle Woodlands

Follow us on Twitter @castlesave and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Savewoodlands/

 

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