First Minister pledges to do 'everything we can’ to protect Lough Neagh as toxic algae expected to return

First Minister pledges to do 'everything we can’ to protect Lough Neagh as toxic algae expected to return

FIRST MINISTER Michelle O’Neill has vowed that Stormont will do "everything we can" to protect Lough Neagh for future generations.

The lough in Northern Ireland is the largest in Ireland and the UK but concerns for its future were raised last summer with the appearance of toxic blue-green algae in the water.

Ms O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly visited the lough this week, where they met with the Lough Neagh Partnership at its edge in Toome.

“We are so lucky to have Lough Neagh on our doorstep,” Ms O’Neill said.

“It has enormous beauty and so much potential. It provides so much of our drinking water and is vital for the fishing, leisure and tourism industries,” she added.

“But, we have heard about the issues facing the Lough. We must do everything we can to protect it.

“I am glad that coordinated efforts are under way to tackle problems, such as the blue green algae, which is understandably a cause of serious concern.”

First Minister Michelle O’Neill, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Andrew Muir DAERA Minister pictured at Lough Neagh

Ms O’Neill went on to pledge to “keep the Lough safe for future generations”.

“Lough Neagh is at the heart of all the communities who live close to its shores,’ she said.

“Along with my Executive colleagues, I am committed to working to keep the Lough safe and sustainable for future generations.”

Reiterating their commitment to the protect the lough, which they described as “one of their most important natural resources”, Ms Little-Pengelly added that the body of water was “not only hugely important from an environmental and wildlife perspective, but also in terms of our water supply, for those who use it for recreation and the local economy based on and around the Lough”.

She added: “The problems at Lough Neagh are complex and there will be no quick fixes, but myself and my Executive colleagues are absolutely committed to taking the necessary action to ensure that we improve the health of the Lough and get the balance right between growing our local economy while safeguarding our precious natural environment.”

The First Minister and deputy First Minister were joined at the meeting by Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew Muir.

“I am pleased to see the First Minister and deputy First Minister visit Lough Neagh today to hear about the issues facing our most important waterway,” he said.

“The scenes witnessed in 2023 are likely to reappear this year, indeed a number of reports of blue green algae blooms have already been received thus far,” he warned.

“We are united in our determination to provide the leadership needed to address the issues in waterways across Northern Ireland, including Lough Neagh,” Mr Muir added.

“I have been clear that collective action and investment across government, private and public sector and in the community is needed.

“The starting point for Lough Neagh is the Environment Strategy and Northern Ireland’s first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) which will significantly improve our natural environment and set the direction of travel for the coming decades, to improve water quality, including at Lough Neagh.

“I look forward to working alongside my Executive colleagues to agree the EIP and then I will present a further and more specific Lough Neagh paper.”