This week's guest poster has chosen to be remain anonymous but it is frustrated at the 'static' pace of action to arrest the coastal erosion problem that is washing Ireland's Links Courses into the sea.

Ireland is blessed with one third of the links courses in the world and there are very few natural resources our wee country can claim that about!
Links golf is the original fabric of this great game and international visitors flock to Ireland each year to experience their unique charm.
Golf Tourism brings hundreds of millions of tourism spend into the Irish economy- this is big!

Our links courses are mainly found on our Atlantic seaboard, situated in rural communities that have come to rely on Tourism as their main economic salvation.

As winter storms and high tides approach, the annual threat to these economic and golfing gems will ‘mysteriously’ appear again from the West, threatening many of these pillars of The Wild Atlantic Way.

We can all recall the shocking images of damage suffered in recent years by courses like Mulranney, Narin & Portnoo, Co. Sligo, Portsalon, Ballybunnion, Ballyliffin, and Doonbeg but little has been done to prevent further damage again this winter.

As is the case in many other legislative matters, Ireland has adopted the full rigours of bureaucratic EU legislation on matters affecting Coastal Erosion and SAC’s (Special Areas of Conservation) and this is making a common sense approach to the dozens of critical problem areas impossible.

Coastal Erosion issues are matters for Local Authorities to investigate and address in the first instance.
The Office of Public Works (OPW), part of the Department of the Environment, administers funding for repair works under the Coastal Protection Scheme but any and all works must be sanctioned and agreed by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) before being approved. Should protection work involve “intervention” along the shore line the matter may also come under the jurisdiction of the Department of The Marine.
None of these Government Agencies claim to be experts in Coastal Erosion – thus their reluctance to allow any “local solution to a local problem” approach.
NPWS act as a EU watchdog ensuring Ireland’s government agencies don’t break any European laws in protecting our own coastal environments.

Any attempt by clubs or local communities to protect their property is met with overwhelming legislative barriers and the full force of the law- seizure of equipment and Court summons for starters.
Whilst the many agencies involved are quick to inform concerned citizens what cannot be allowed, none will make a recommendation as to what should be done without an “expert” Coastal Erosion Risk Management Study.
This expertise lies in the wonderful world of academia with many of the experts being Professors in the various Schools of Environmental Sciences in our universities.
Expert studies involve weeks of analysis of beach and tidal behaviour on site and can cost up to €50,000 with no guarantee that the recommendations will resolve the issue.


We now face into another winter with no protective works in place in many of our links courses. There is no doubt we will again witness significant damage to the same links courses, and perhaps others, in the coming months.
Would this be tolerated in any other country? I think not. If a leak appeared in a dyke in the Netherlands I am sure our Dutch neighbours would not be content to let Mother Nature take its course!

Common sense must prevail here- the clubs that manage the precious dune environments and ecosystems are more than willing to work with local authorities and Government Agencies.
We all agree that Coastal Erosion issues and any interventions must be addressed in a measured, sensitive and structured manner but that should not be a barrier to a more proactive and expeditious solution being found.

Our links golf courses are an important amenity for the people of Ireland but are also the economic life blood to many rural businesses that rely on the hundreds of thousands of tourists coming each year.
We must insist on an immediate action plan from Government before critical pieces of our National Tourism Infrastructure are irreparably damaged or lost forever.
Temporary simple solutions could be sanctioned whist an overall strategy and long term solution is agreed upon. ACT NOW!!!

If your club has Coastal Erosion concerns it is important these are highlighted to your local Authority, County Councillors, TD’s and MEP immediately.
As a links golf community under threat we must act together to highlight this issue at the highest possible levels to ensure our links courses are protected for generations to come.
Too much has been lost already,it is time to stand together against the tide that threatens the livelihoods of much of Irelands rural coastal communities.

Pic: Mulranny GC 2014. "Millions of gallons of sea water on the 3rd, 5th and 6th. The 3rd green is under 2.5m of seawater."

Some of the many Governing Bodies and Associations within golf would be well advised to give this matter their immediate attention and help the clubs with a coordinated joint approach for action.

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Mulranny Damage Pic tnx: IrishGolfDesk
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