Print Print Page | A | A | A

Marine Policy & Planning - Ireland

Ireland has no high level strategic policy for our seas and coastal areas within which marine spatial planning can be developed and a direction set for marine licensing.

The Irish government’s official response to the EU Green Paper on Maritime Policy, supports EU recommendations on Marine Spatial Planning based on an ecosystem approach and integrated coastal zone management.

The weaknesses in Ireland’s marine governance have long been acknowledged by government officials, politicians and environmental NGOs. Ireland’s Marine Institute, the national agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation, has consistently underlined the need for an integrated marine policy in line with EU recommendations.

In spite of this widespread acknowledgement of the need for reform, there appears to be no government urgency to adopt an integrated maritime policy or introduce a system of coastal and marine spatial planning to balance competing vested interests and protect Ireland’s marine environment.

Government Action: Timeline


  • The Government's Action Programme for the Millennium (1999) contained a commitment to legislate comprehensively for the integrated management of the coastal zone, comprising the marine area and adjoining lands.


  • The Department of the Marine's key document governing offshore wind farm development, “Offshore Electricity Generating Stations: Note for Intending Developers”, (May 2001) states: that “new legislation targeted for introduction in the Houses of Oireachtas in the latter half of 2001, is intended to replace the Foreshore Acts and make provision for appeals in relation to Foreshore Leases and for an extended role for local authorities in relation to the coastal zone”.


  • No significant progress was made on this commitment. Valuable foreshore leases for two of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world, 10/12km off the Wicklow coast, covering almost 120km², were awarded to developers without public tender, under legislation officially acknowledged to be out of date and in need of reform. The 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park was awarded a foreshore lease in 2002 by Minister Frank Fahey. The 1100MW Codling Wind Park was awarded a foreshore lease in 2005 by Minister Noel Dempsey


  • The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, initiated a Review of Coastal Management in Ireland to build a modernised legal framework and procedures for coastal management. (April 2007) The stated objective was: “to undertake a strategic review of the legislative framework, structures and procedures in place to manage the State owned foreshore. The object of the Review is to outline the options, informed by best international practice for putting in place a modernised legislative framework and improved systems and procedures for Coastal Zone Management which will best fit the medium, to long term requirements in this area.”
  • The above review was put on hold following a government decision to transfer responsibility for certain foreshore licensing functions (including offshore energy) under the Foreshore Act 1933 to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
  • Responsibility for Foreshore Administration was transferred from The Minister for the Marine to The Minister for Agriculture pending transfer, once the enabling legislation has been enacted, to the Minister for Environment (Oct 2007).

    Note: In November 2007, the National Offshore Wind Association (NOW), a lobby group for the offshore wind industry was set up. The five founding members were the two developers who had already been awarded foreshore leases under outdated legislation for extensive developments off Wicklow ( Arklow Bank and Codling Bank) and the three others whose applications for foreshore leases ( Oriel, Sceirde and Kish Bank) were being held up by the change in administrative procedures.


  • In February, Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources announced a significant increase in price support for offshore wind (€140 per megawatt hour).
  • This had the effect of immediately increasing the value of foreshore leases for construction in Irish waters.
  • In the first two months of the year, the two extensive foreshore leases for offshore wind farms which had been awarded off Wicklow (Arklow Bank and Codling Bank) were sold on to international power companies by the original Irish promoters at a significant profit.
  • There was an immediate rush by developers to claim sites in Ireland’s near-shore zone on “a first come first served” basis.
  • Over 13 applications for foreshore licences for initial site investigation were lodged in the first six months of 2008, mostly on sandbanks close to the Wicklow and Wexford coasts.


  • The Government approved legislation transferring responsibility for granting foreshore licences from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government (Oct 2009)


  • Responsibility for Foreshore Administration was transferred to The Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government (Jan 2010).

Marine Institute 2007, Weaknesses in Ireland’s Coastal Management Regime.

  • No integrated regulatory framework for coastal management.
  • De facto policy of “first come first served“.
  • Until now no integrated national plan in operation for Marine Monitoring.
  • No sense of local ownership/input to Coastal Management.
  • Perceived complexity of Coastal Zone Management.
  • Fragmented and ad hoc decision making by advisory groups reporting to Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources.
  • Staff turnover and weaknesses in key administrative structures.

“Towards the Sustainable Development of Ireland's Coast” (Conference organised by Irish Coastal Network, April 2007)

CCA comment

The widely acknowledged inadequacies in Ireland’s marine governance and the lack of marine and coastal planning to balance competing interest in our seas, should have been addressed before successive Ministers for the Marine:

  • Awarded foreshore leases for two of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world in Ireland’s near shore waters
  • Offered generous price supports for offshore renewable energy development(2008) leading to a rush of applications which an inadequate system was unable to process