The recent debate in the national media about the ownership of the Corrib gas fields were, undoubtedly, a welcome development but, unfortunately, the issue of stolen national resources is not limited to natural gas alone.
Of the many rivers, canals and waterways throughout Ireland, many are currently ‘owned’ exclusively by members of the British aristocracy.
Perhaps the most poignant example of this is the case of the River Blackwater, which spans large stretches of counties Cork and Waterford. The Blackwater boasts some of the richest salmon and trout fishing in western Europe, drawing thousands of visitors every year from across the world.
However, in order to fish in the river one must pay a large daily fee to the river’s ‘owner’, the Duke of Devonshire and absentee landlord, Peregrine Cavendish, who also ‘owns’ Lismore Castle and an 8,000 acre surrounding estate.
Those local anglers who refuse to make such payments to Cavendish are liable for prosecution and countless people have appeared in courts on trespass charges in the past. In defence of this scenario, Cavendish bolsters his claim to the Blackwater’s fishing rights by also claiming ownership over the river bed and the river’s mouth in Youghal harbour.
As a result of this scandalous situation, previous county councils have had difficulty in building any public structure on the banks of the river and continually have to seek Cavendish’s permission for any development that may take place.
The assets of the River Blackwater were valued at €10m alone in 2008 and these go directly to Cavendish, who is the single-largest private interest on the river and is worth an estimated £800 million [€905 million].
éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistir said: “The issue of who owns Irish waterways is of vital importance to anyone concerned with the issue of national resources. Is it correct that, 95 years after the Easter Rising, Irish citizens are still forced to pay dues to British aristocrats to fish in their own rivers?
“It is clear that foreign, unelected aristocrats such as Peregrine Cavendish have no right to claim ownership over any stretch of Irish land or Irish river and such valuable public amenities should be brought under public ownership, with the fishing rights coming under public management.”
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