Love Lough Beg, Save The Seamus Heaney Landscape

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The gentle rural Seamus Heaney landscape, inspiration to his nobel-prize winning literature, is under unfathomable threat. No one is saying a road upgrade between Northern Ireland's two big cities is not essential. It's the route, not the road. Construction of this scheme would see a dual carriageway built on top of an area of enormous cultural & global significance. Please help stop this damaging route.  The damaging section is only a quarter of the 14km scheme and forms a free-standing off-line loop through wild and unspoilt wetlands. 

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. 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', all feature prominently in his work and all stand to be permanently affected, altered or brutalised.

Further to this, the route will fragment and damage the internationally important wetlands of Lough Beg, a designated RAMSAR and SPA site. It 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.

A legal challenge to the route has proceeded through Northern Ireland's High Court and Court of Appeal in 2017. The Supreme Court in London refused to give leave to appeal in March 2018. The grounds given were for lines: 'permission to appeal be refused because the application does not raise an arguable point of law of general importance which ought to be considered at this time bearing in mind that the case has already been subject to judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.' 

Construction of the contested section has now started but will cease at the end of September for six months when the Whooper Swans return from Iceland for the winter. The fact that construction is not permitted at this time demonstrates the functional link between their feeding grounds through which the road is being built and the adjoining Special Protection Area. Case law has established that functionally linked land is indirectly protected as if it were within the boundaries of the SPA. 

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 know no boundaries and have no voice. You can give them a voice by signing this petition. 

Heaney 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' 'Swans at Coole' would be threatened" in the same manner.

There were and are alternatives available for his route, yet government has blindly proceeded to railroad through these plans in one of the most culturally and environmentally devastating acts of institutionalised vandalism - upon a piece of cultural heritage cherished globally. The proposed route is a terrible mistake, as incomprehensible today as it will be in years to come. Man has lived beside Lough Beg for almost 10,000 years. Today more than ever we need to show our love for Lough Beg, as Nobel poet laureate Seamus Heaney did, so that future generations may also love its roadless tranquility and naturalness. In the years to come no one will thank our generation if we 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 think the big picture: an alternative, sustainable route is a win for all. The European Commission has opened an investigation. 

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