Save Lough Beg - Save Heaney Country

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The Seamus Heaney wetland landscape, inspiration to his nobel-prize winning literature, is under unfathomable threat. Construction of a dual carriageway scheme is paving over this area of enormous cultural & global significance in times of a climate and ecological emergency. 

We are ‘for’ better infrastructure linking Derry to Belfast, but this is the wrong route.  We are asking for a 4km section of the A6 to be rerouted to protect Heaney’s inspirational landscape and to protect the winter feeding grounds of the Icelandic Whooper Swan.

It is the route, not the road.

Carrying 32,000 vehicles per day, the contested section of the scheme stands to utterly annihilate the pastoral features and recurring placenames of Heaney's writing. Shockingly it passes within 100m of the Heaney home, Mossbawn, setting for countless poems, and will permanently destroy the scenic landscape surrounding it. 'The Strand at Lough Beg', 'Anahorish', 'The Broagh', 'The Hillhead', 'Lagan's Road', 'The Sluggan' ‘Aughrim Hill’, all feature prominently in his work and all stand to be permanently affected, altered or brutalised.

The route will fragment and damage the internationally important wetlands of Lough Beg, a designated RAMSAR and SPA site. The sensitivity of the chosen route poses grave danger to many protected species and highlights the enormous environmental implications of the development which have been systematically ignored by the Department for Infrastructure.

The story so far...

Chris Hazzard (Sinn Fein) was the Minister for Infrastructure in charge and made the announcement that the road would proceed, despite international outcry.  A legal challenge to the route using EU nature law, has proceeded through Northern Ireland's High Court and then through Court of Appeal in 2017. The Supreme Court in London refused to give leave to appeal in March 2018.

So far no court has protected this area, due to a historic lack of understanding of complex environmental law in Northern Ireland. Construction of the contested section has now started but will cease at the end of September 2019 for six months when the Whooper Swans return from Iceland for the winter. They feed directly in the pathway and the vicinity of the planned route and no work must take place during this time, as the swans would be disturbed. However once the road is built, their special feeding areas will be fragmented and taken away forever.

Ireland's most important population of Whooper Swans is anchored on the wet grasslands of Lough Beg. A high percentage of Lough Beg's birds are migratory: Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Greylag Goose and the iconic Whooper Swan all come from Iceland. Migrating birds don’t understand man made boundaries and have no voice. You can give them a voice by signing this petition.

Why are we building in a floodplain?

There were and are alternatives available for his route, that were never properly assessed.  Yet the NI government has blindly proceeded to railroad through these plans in a culturally and environmentally devastating act of vandalism. Effects of climate change have not been considered, despite widespread and unprecedented flooding in 2017, and the selected route will go straight through a floodplain.

What was Seamus Heaney's opinion?

Heaney wrote many letters and was involved in campaigning, he called these plans 'a desecration' before he died. In an article to The Telegraph he suggested there would be "international outcry if the habitat that inspired WB Yeats' 'Wild Swans at Coole Park' would be threatened" in the same manner.  

We feel that with the wonderful new Homeplace Centre in Bellaghy it is time to recognise the importance of the landscape that inspired him and to create a wonderful indoor as well as an outdoor experience.  We believe there is a win win solution available - the now vested land could become greenways and a heritage park that would bring sustainable tourism, local jobs and improved quality of life to the local area, where there is a real lack of safe parks and walking paths and greenways for children and families.

The proposed route is a terrible mistake, as incomprehensible today as it will be in years to come. Today more than ever we need to show our love for these last wild places, as Nobel poet laureate Seamus Heaney did, so that future generations may also love its roadless tranquility and naturalness. We cannot allow a priceless asset to be replaced with something which by the government's own estimation has a lifespan of less than 60 years.

Please show your support. Signing this petition means you are asking Northern Ireland's government and all its political parties, Northern Ireland's Secretary of State and the Departmental Permanent Secretaries to see the big picture: an alternative, sustainable route is a win for all.

We have Hope

Thank you.