Creating a clear and focused vision for the future of Lough Corrib

Next weekend will serve as a huge boost to creating awareness around Lough Corrib and the rich heritage that it encompasses. It will also set the tone for a whole new journey for the people within its catchment area that focuses on sustainable living and a new-found appreciation for the heritage that is there.

The event is the brainchild of Corrib Beo – which is co-chaired by Denis Goggin of Waterways Foundation Galway and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, Micheál O’Cinneide. The organisation holds a “shared and sustainable vision” for Lough Corrib.

Meanwhile, on August 25, boats will travel from two destinations, Oughterard, Co. Galway, and Cong, Co. May, on Lough Corrib to Inchagoill Island – the biggest island on Lough Corrib that boasts a wonderful history that goes back to pre-Christian times.

And according to Goggin, “there are lots of architectural gems on the island including a church that dates back to the 18th century – reputedly built by St. Patrick’s nephew”.

There is also an 11th century church on the island too. The island is 110ac, is covered in forestry and owned by Coillte. There are also beautiful walkways through it.

He continued: “So, in an effort to create awareness around the island, we have organised a boat trip to it this coming weekend – on Sunday, August 25.

“The event is also being run in conjunction with national heritage week and we have invited 180 people in total – 100 from Outherard and 80 from Cong, so there will be people coming from both sides of the lake out to the island.”

Culture and heritage

Goggin went on to say that organisers were hopeful that plenty of private boats would be out in force on the day as well.

Meanwhile, Corrib Beo believes that the event will raise awareness around the heritage of the island and that people will be “inspired by what they see and experience for themselves on the day”.

We want people to see and believe in the wonderful heritage that we have on Lough Corrib and appreciate too the wonderful amenity that it is.

He added: “Lough Corrib is pretty much invisible to the majority of people in Galway – they don’t connect culturally to it nor do they connect it to being the wonderful amenity that it is either.

“If you get a critical mass of people engaging with something then it becomes part of the culture; the only culture associated with the corrib at the moment is fishing.

“It is renowned for its fishing and is regarded as one of the best free-fishing lakes in the world – salmon up to 60lb weight have been caught there and that would be incredible specimens of fish.”

“Part of Co. Mayo comes into Lough Corrib as well so it is a shared amenity.”

Lough Corrib and its footprint

Meanwhile, Coggin pointed to the footprint of the corrib, which, he said, is “5% of the land mass of Ireland”.

“We feel that bringing together communities, environmentalists, state agencies and institutions like the National University of Ireland (NUI) here in Galway is vital,” he continued.

“In fact, at the moment, NUI is doing research on the lake and the president of the university, Ciarán O’Hogarty, is very much of the mind that the hinterland of the corrib is a living, social and environmental laboratory for the university.”

Coggin also says that the “strands of energy” and enthusiasm needed for the corrib’s vision is “dissipated” at the moment.

It all needs to be pulled into a single vision of where Lough Corrib should be and what it will be like in 15, 20, 25 years’ time from a community, economic and environmental point of view.

He continued: “There is insidious and ongoing deterioration in many of the metrics of the lake in terms of biodiversity degeneration, fish stock decline, sedimentation, pollution, invasive species – all of these things are insidiously, actively, negatively impacting on the lake.

Also Read: A sustainable, collaborative approach to ‘making Lough Corrib great again’

“And, if we get to a certain point in that process there will be irreversible, reputational damage.

“At the moment when you see the lake it’s beautiful – it is an incredibly beautiful resource with lovely tranquil waters, wooded islands and undulating skyline all around it. And, its reputation is absolutely in tact.

But, unfortunately, at the moment there is a vicious circle happening as well.

“Therefore, we want to collectivise the energy and the voice of all of the corrib interests to arrest that cycle and hopefully begin gradually to create a cycle where as many of the negative aspects as possible can be remediated.

“Some will be difficult, like, for example, invasive species because once they get in they are difficult to deal with – but not impossible.

Science and collective knowledge can come to the rescue there.

“So hopefully the event next Sunday will inspire people; then we all do what we need to do as far as Lough Corrib is concerned.”