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.

20160806-_F2F6846

So what to do?!?

FullSizeRender (2)

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.

20160806-_F2F6801

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.

FullSizeRender

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/

 

Advertisements

Help Save Malahide Castle Woodlands

At 5pm today (BST) our Councillors in Fingal County Council in North County Dublin will vote on a proposed development which will allow a commercial enterprise operate a ‘Treetop Canopy Adventure’ in 5 hectares of ancient woodland in Malahide Castle.

I grew up here in Malahide and from my earliest memories the castle and it’s woodlands were my playground. We climbed trees and explored the hidden woodlands as children and as teenagers we languidly spend our school holidays watching the cricket under a shady tree. I spent years in London, started my own family and then migrated back to the town that shaped me. The Castle has always been the focal point of this beautiful village. My tiny London natives now have their earliest memories intertwined with the trees and serenity of the Castle grounds.

Malahide Castle built in 1185, is not only one of the oldest Castles in Ireland but it is home to some exceptional fauna and wildlife. The Castle belonged to the Talbot Family for 800 years until 1973 when it was sold to the State to pay inheritance taxes. Lord Talbot was an avid collector and spent many years collecting seeds and plants from Australia where they surprisingly flourished in our often damp seaside climate. As a result, we also inherited the much maligned ‘Malahide’ mosquito which is responsible for keeping the Castle’s thriving colony of bats well fed. This habitat is unique to Ireland and it’s fragility cannot be overstated.

Everyday I am there for a run or walk with the dogs. Fridays after school are spent in the castle playground and always on the same picnic bench. Mothers chat while the kids climb and explore. Saturday’s football matches are played on the Castle pitches, Parents’ on the sidelines, both hands encircling a takeaway cup of hot Avoca coffee in a vain attempt to keep warm. Sundays can be whatever I want them to be, spending time in the grounds with no schedule to hinder my amble.

The Castle and it’s grounds are part of the fabric of this village and are enshrined in our DNA. It belongs to us and we know it and we will fight tooth and nail to protect it. I never take it for granted and want to cherish this incredible ancient fortress as it has cherished me and my family.

Please sign this petition if you think there is any validity in what I am saying. Once this has been done it cannot be undone. In the last 40 years the Castle has changed hugely and nearly always for the better but I implore you, do not let this next step be a step to far.

You can sign the petition today. We will be handing the petitions to the Lord Mayor of Fingal at 1630 in advance of the Council vote.

Save Malahide Castle Woodlands Petition

You can also visit the Facebook Page: Save Malahide castle woodland.