The Old River Shannon Research Group have filed a formal complaint against the Mulkear LIFE project with the European Commission. This project was located in the Lower River Shannon candidate Special Area of Conservation (Site Code 2165), and was part-funded with €1,740,818 of EU LIFE funds.
- Download the complaint here: MulkearLIFE EC Complaint (16-2-15)
This project did not meet the requirements of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) as it was not assessed correctly for its potential to cause significant adverse effects on the Natura 2000 network. Indeed, a number of activities associated with this project clearly required Appropriate Assessment, not to mention planning permission.
The benefits for lampreys and other species that were promised and paid for by the EU have not been delivered
Significant adverse effects on the populations of Petromyzon marinus (Sea Lamprey)  and Lampetra fluviatilis (River Lamprey)  in the Lower Shannon cSAC were realised during the implementation of this project. This was primarily due to major instream works being undertaken during the spawning times of these species, which are key conservation interests of this Natura 2000 site.
Furthermore, there was no scientific information produced for lamprey “passes” designed and installed as part of the project. Apart from during select periods of low river flow, it seems unlikely that these “passes” had the potential to provide any significant benefits to Sea Lampreys. They never represented an effective or sustainable fish passage solution. This fish pass design offered no benefits to the other two lamprey species in this cSAC, and could also not be used by the critically endangered European Eel Anguilla Anguilla. These passes have now been washed away so clearly cannot provide any long-term benefits.
A key element of the project was to build a rock ramp fish pass at Ballyclough Weir on the lower reaches of the River Mulkear. However, this was never built and a weir of regional archaeological value was partially destroyed, in the absence of any water quality or archaeological mitigation. Two barriers to migration remain in the river downstream of this weir. Benefits to other species resulting from the Mulkear LIFE project are also in question, with Salmo salar (Salmon)  stocks on river declining from favourable to unfavourable conservation status over the duration of the project.
The Lower River Shannon cSAC already had too many pressures – mainly from the activities of many of Mulkear LIFE’s project partner’s. We believe that this project became yet another pressure on this Natura 2000 site and – rather than bringing the benefits promised – caused damage to the integrity of the Lower River Shannon candidate Special Area of Conservation.
Download a copy of the formal complaint here: MulkearLIFE EC Complaint (16-2-15)
Mulkear LIFE has, with the Ballycough weir removal and the design of their lampreys passes taken short-cuts that have damaged the Lower River Shannon SAC. The benefits for lampreys and other species that were promised and paid for by the EU have not been delivered. This is why we have made this formal complaint.
- The following is the European Commission’s response to the the complaint : chap-20152239-pre-closure
- The following is my response : response-chap-2015-2239-8-8-16
- The following outlines their reason for closure : chap-20152239-closure
The complaint was closed by the European Commission and was not upheld. However, I think that anyone that reads though MulkearLIFE EC Complaint (16-2-15), chap-20152239-pre-closure, response-chap-2015-2239-8-8-16 and final closure document (chap-20152239-closure) will agree that the issues which I raised were not directly addressed – and indeed purposely evaded. I nonetheless accept and respect the decision and hope that the complaint will influence agencies such as IFI and NPWS to raise their standards in the future. Perhaps I was not able to demonstrate a breach of European law, but I certainly did expose an abject failure to follow best practice. Annacotty weir remains a migration barrier for lampreys and it is also a difficult barrier for even salmon and this video taken in November 2016 clearly shows : https://youtu.be/-FHM1Yjxml0. The only legacy of the Mulkear LIFE project is really just the signs and murals and Annacotty.