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DUP reject ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ tourism plan over inclusivity concerns

New tourism strategy approved despite opposition from DUP on inclusivity concerns saying unionist have been “ignored”.

The DUP has “strenuously” rejected a tourism branding of Newry, Mourne and Down as ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ over concerns the unionist community has been “ignored”.

Further environmental objections to the Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2024-29 were also raised by Alliance as the councils’ UNESCO Global Geopark of ‘Mourne Gullion Strangford’ is to be promoted on an international market.

The tourism item had been marked on the council agenda on Monday (April 15) night to be discussed behind closed doors, however the chamber remained open to the media for the debate with no proposal or vote by councillors to bring the matter in to confidential session.

Despite the opposition in chambers, the new tourism strategy was carried at the economy, regeneration and tourism committee by a majority vote (12-2).

Mournes DUP cllr, Glyn Hanna said: “Our group leader has spent a lot of time and effort into this and we spoke about it among ourselves and we believe that we have pretty much been ignored.

“This strategy reflects very little on the whole community, we make 23% of the community and Ulster Scots is mentioned only twice as far as I can see.

“And actually, ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ is not a title we can support. Where is Ireland’s true nature, it could be anywhere in Ireland, so we will not be supporting this most strenuously and we will be bringing it up again in full council.”

NMDDC held a six week public consultation on the draft tourism strategy in September 2023 with contributions from stakeholders and citizens.

The chamber heard only 34 responses were received including two emails.
Mournes Alliance rep, Jill Truesdale raised concerns that the rural area infrastructure could not cope with increased traffic and footfall.
She said: “I have very real concerns about it. The number of responses to the consultation is really poor.
“We really need to work on how we get the consultations out to the public.
“There is a lack of actual nitty gritty, the specifics and real detail on the framework.
“Economic growth is often associated with environmental degradation.
“Infinite growth on a finite planet doesn’t work.
“Many of the roads in the area are not built for the volume of traffic, carparks can not be magically created, there is no land available.
“Every year we see the same thing, traffic chaos on the road and councillors calling for sensible parking, but it should have been brought up at this stage before encouraging people to come into the area.
“In addition encouraging people into the fragile areas of course means humans will create rubbish.
“So, on those two very basic points of traffic and rubbish, where are the tangible strategic details to cope with traffic and rubbish?”
Newry SDLP cllr, Killian Feehan voiced his support for the strategy.
He said: “I think what has been proposed here is excellent and I think the tone of the brand plugs in well to other destination marketing brands on the island.
“I think this is inclusive and equitable as well.
“I understand some of the issues that have been brought up previously and I would hope to have a tourism workshop with stakeholders and all those who fed into the process, to get everybody to buy in and be on the same page prior to going public.”

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