Dr Jimmy Murphy, senior researcher at Beaufort, UCC
Ireland’s long and varied coastline ranges from high rocky cliffs that can resist Atlantic waves to sandy beaches that seem to change with every tide. Many of our most beautiful landscapes are by the coast and it is largely unspoiled and rich in biodiversity. A large proportion of our population live there and it is the interface through which most goods enter and leave the country.
Global coastlines are coming under increased pressure due to climate change and human activity. However, in Ireland, unless you live in a seafront town or a clifftop house, what happens on the coastline seems of minor importance. This view arises from the fact that the coastline although displaced by erosion does not disappear. It is an opinion shared by responsible government agencies which do not, in the view of many local authorities, allocate sufficient funding to coastal protection works.
The main coastal engineering work done in Ireland following the storms of 2013/14 was repair of damaged defences. These were rebuilt and made better and stronger than before with the expectation that they will be more capable of resisting future storms. While repair is or course necessary, in general we are being short-sighted in our approach to coastal erosion management and are likely to be postponing making the real decisions to some future point. Such decisions relate to taking the steps to properly managing the coast and prioritising protection works in an objective, consistent basis.
Part one of this feature will outline the main challenges/issues that face Ireland’s coastline from a coastal erosion perspective and a follow-up article will describe some actions that should be taken in the absence of any motivation to develop a national strategy.