Lough Neagh stakeholders agree on ‘new shared vision for a community led future’

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has welcomed a “new shared vision for a community led future operation” on Lough Neagh at a conference attended by 64 stakeholders.

She made the comments at the closing of the three day conference, hosted by Development Trusts NI in Toomebridge, and attended by a representative for Lord Shaftesbury - as he was reported to be unwell.

The focus of the event, which ran from February 29 to March 2, was on producing a shared vision for the future strategic management and development of Lough Neagh.

Speaking at the conference Minister O’Neill said: “It is encouraging to see such a wide range of conference delegates, representing such varied interest, at any conference and indeed your presence here today demonstrates how many individuals and organisations are impacted by what happens on Lough Neagh.

“Despite the potentially competing interests involved in and around Lough Neagh I am delighted that a shared vision for a community led future operation and management of Lough Neagh has been agreed.”

As well as local communities, sand dredging, fishing and tourism were all represented.

Concluding, Minister O’Neill, went on to say: “One of my priorities as Minister has been support for development of the Lough which will present real opportunities for rural tourism and economic progress not only for those communities which are directly adjacent to the Lough but throughout the north.”

Commenting on the success of the ‘Future Search’ Conference, Chair of Development Trusts NI, Nigel Kinnaird, added: “Lough Neagh is important to us all, it has a huge community of users, and many see it as an underdeveloped asset.

“To date our engagement has been very positive, with a series of meetings, and consultation events being held locally in and around the Lough.

“This week’s Future Search Conference attended by 64 key local influencers all of whom have a stake in Lough Neagh, has provided the community with an opportunity to examine the potential future vision for the Lough. We continue to encourage those who reside, work, engage with or are passionate about the Lough to be part of our work on this.”