21 May 2022

Leitrim plays host to Maynooth University study trip

Leitrim plays host to Maynooth University study trip

Pictured are the students and lecturers from Maynooth University and members of Save Leitrim and Save Dough Mountain

Students from the Dept of Geography, Maynooth University, together with two of their lecturers Louise Fitzpatrick and Mary Gilmartin recently visited Leitrim and met with community groups and businesses in the county as part of a field trip.
With Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre as their starting point, they heard about the work being done there on developing heritage trails and the flora and fauna of the area.

As a number of the students are doing research on monoculture forestry in Leitrim, they were brought to see a clear fell site in the area and saw first-hand the environmental damage caused by same.
A tour of the Organic Centre gardens and tunnels in Rossinver and hearing about this social enterprise was one of the highlights for the visitors.

The tour of the area taking in Dough Mountain finished at Fulacht Fiadh Cafe, Manorhamilton where the group had lunch and met with members of the Save Leitrim and Save Dough groups. Speakers from these groups shared their knowledge and experience with the students; from Save Leitrim members they heard about the environmental and biodiversity impacts of monoculture forestry in the county, the displacement of young farmers with land prices being inflated by forestry companies and corporate investment in afforestation and the relatively unregulated industry that it is with no environmental impact assessment needed to gain a licence for planting trees.

They were also very surprised to learn that there is no real democratic planning process which allows input by the local authority, elected representatives and local citizens as plantations and forestry operation are exempted development and all such decisions are only taken by foresters in the Department of agriculture. Afforestation is a long term significant industrial land use change which is impacting on many communities and people in Leitrim.

From Save Dough members, the students studying Just Energy Transition were very interested to hear about the outdated guidelines for this industry, the lack of public consultation and the imposition of industrial scale wind farms on communities on fragile landscapes. Similarities with the monoculture forestry in the county, the students heard that the erection of large scale onshore turbines releases carbon from upland bog. In many cases trees are removed to make room for turbines which use huge amounts of energy consuming concrete on these bogs for the infrastructure, leading to possible landslides.

Following a delicious lunch at Fulacht Fiadh Cafe at Manorhamilton Castle, the group heard about the genesis of the cafe, its focus on community, sustainability, heritage and its plans for the future which include a community garden and a food purchasing co-op.

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