Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

National park opponents unimpressed by Alex Attwood no-show

Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced a 500,000 pound renovation fund for Londonderry
Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced a 500,000 pound renovation fund for Londonderry

The Environment Minister was introduced as “the invisible man” to 500 angry residents and farmers after he failed to appear at a public meeting.

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood had been invited to talk about plans for a national park on the picturesque north Antrim coast.

Mr Attwood said he was unable to attend the event having originally planned to do so due to “another important engagement”.

However, Moyle Independent councillor Padraig McShane, who helped organise the event, said it had been arranged to cater for the minister's diary.

Mr Attwood’s chair remained empty at the top table during Wednesday night's meeting, with one speaker jokingly introducing him to the audience as “the invisible man”. The minister had received what he described as a “boisterous” reception from Ulster Farmers Union members at another national parks meeting in Cookstown over the summer.

He also did not attend a similar engagement in Newcastle at which 1,000 people voiced strong opposition to a Mournes national park.

The audience contained representatives from all political parties, including North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr and TUV leader Jim Allister.

They were told Mr Attwood had only informed the organisers he could not attend three days previously.

“We'll manage without him,” added farmer Victor Chestnutt.

The theme of the meeting was ‘Say No to a national park'.

Factfile

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without a national park. It is an area of protected countryside administered by its own independent Government-funded body to look after its conservation and promote its benefits.

The minister has previously indicated he wants two created, with the Mournes, the Causeway coast, the Antrim Glens and Fermanagh Lakelands identified as possible areas. There are 15 national parks in Britain.

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