Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan has announced a funding allocation of €500,000 towards the clearance of invasive rhododendron ponticum in Connemara National Park.

The funding is to be spent over the next two years and is expected to create employment opportunities within the park.

The aim is to eradicate rhododendron across 300ha of heath and blanket bog in the area.

Minister Noonan said: “Removing invasive species is challenging and labour-intensive work, but it is critically important for the health of our ecosystems.”

The clearance projects will be advertised by way of e-tenders. Contractors are invited to submit a response to the tender request and have their submissions considered.

It is envisaged to have this tender published, contracts signed and work commenced by quarter four (Q4) of 2021.

The news has been welcomed by a number of businesses and local organisations in the area.

Responding to the announcement in a joint statement, Connemara Chamber of Commerce John Sweeney and FORUM Connemara CEO Karen Mannion said: “It is tremendous to see this positive conservation work ongoing within the park, which is of significant benefit to both biodiversity and the community.

“We look forward with anticipation to the delivery of this project, which will further enhance Connemara as a location to visit and as a place to live,” the joint statement said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kevin Heanue, Connemara West chairperson, said that the fight against rhododendron is an “ongoing challenge”.

“Connemara National Park is a significant local asset not only in terms of the natural environment but also in terms of the contribution it makes to peoples’ quality of life,” Dr. Heanue added.

Minister Noonan noted: “Rhododendron is an extremely invasive species. It is one of the biggest threats to peatlands in the west of Ireland and can colonise habitats, causing significant problems unless properly managed.”