Overcoming the Fear of
Convention Third Meeting of the Workshops,
16th June 2005
Terry O’ Regan
the past ten years Terry O’ Regan has lead Landscape Alliance Ireland which he
founded in 1995, an informal loosely-structured NGO, whose objectives are to
provide an open forum for discussing and exploring all aspects of landscape and
landscape management, to engage in research, to develop a database of
information and to act as advocates for effective landscape policies, strategies
and instruments for implementation at European, National, Regional and Local
participation in the development of the European Landscape Convention and the
promotion of the Convention in Ireland led to Irelands early signing and
ratifying of the Convention in March 2002.
protection, management and creation has proposed difficult challenges for
Ireland particularly over the past ten years at a time of rapid economic growth
and the solutions that we develop will prove invaluable to many of our European
convening of the third meeting of workshops in
the distant past we may have had reason to fear the landscape - a theme explored
so thoroughly by Simon Schama in ‘Landscape and Memory’. He spoke of
travellers returning from the early and very wooded landscape of
when we appear to have so successfully beaten the landscape into submission,
albeit often creating urban landscapes far more dangerous than Hercynian
European Landscape Convention may not contain advice on what to do if you meet a
“hairy auroch”, but it is intended to promote landscape protection,
management and planning and to organise European co-operation on landscape
ratifying party is required to recognise landscapes in law, to establish and
implement landscape policies, to establish procedures for the participation of
the general public, local and regional authorities and other parties and to
integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies and all other
relevant policies including its cultural, environmental, agricultural, social
and economic policies.
specific measures required to achieve the aims of the objectives involved
awareness raising, relevant training and education, landscape identification and
assessment, the setting of landscape quality objectives and the implementation
of the landscape policies.
have been given to believe that the decision of the Irish Government to sign and
ratify the convention in March 2002 followed an evaluation process that
question that we in
would suggest that we might all agree that it would be difficult for any nation
to make a bold statement that it has successfully reached a point where it can
state that it has fully implemented the European Landscape Convention.
fact, I would suggest that no nation will ever reach that point, as the
objectives and aims of the convention are intended to realise a process rather
than an end-product.
Alliance Ireland organised a discussion group earlier this week to review the
current position and it appeared to me that the conclusions of our two hour long
discussion was that the situation in Ireland was not disastrous, that there is
much about our landscape today of which we can be proud and that there are a
wide range of policies, strategies and implementation measures in place, even if
they are not fully integrated.
there was a general consensus that there were still serious problems and
difficult challenges in the Irish landscape and that they are all too often
related to the fact that while there has been considerable lip-service paid to
landscape, this did not always translate into practical implementation measures.
all of us to evaluate our success or failure in implementing the European
Landscape Convention we urgently require measurable indicators and I
respectfully suggest that this is a particular area where the European Landscape
Convention workshops might focus in the near future.
structure of the Irish Experience presentation is intended to provide you with
an overview of the current position in
the process is working effectively then if you can visualise a large old style
clock - all of the wheels and cogs should fit neatly and snugly together and
should engage efficiently and effectively. There
should be no clashing of gears, no sparks and no breaking of metal and certainly
there should no wheels spinning idly and wildly.
European Landscape Convention focuses very much on the issue of policy and
of the major obstacles we confronted was that politicians have great difficulty
in differentiating between the national policy of a nation and the party
manifestos or current position papers.
policy should be designed and worded to serve the best interests and quality of
life of all of the people of the nation concerned.
in Ireland have a wide range of legislation in place with regard to planning and
development which dates right back to 1963 and indeed is very relevant that
today in the audience we have Michael Dower who worked on the preparatory work
for the 1963 Planning and Development Act in Ireland.
Act had significant aspirations with regard to landscape, though perhaps not as
clearly defined as we would have wished and indeed the current act which
replaced the 1963 Act in 2000 also has certain aspirations with regard to
one of the difficulties with the Irish planning legislation to date is the
inbuilt need for continuous correction and restraint achieved by the
intervention of small NGO’s or community organisations concerned with regard
to quality of life issues and that would suggest that the fundamental
legislation is faulty.
the current situation has given rise to the paradox where on the one hand the
government has recently on the one hand been criticising NGO’s for
participating in the democratic process of planning and on the other hand they
are criticising them for not participating.
and activists in NGO’s and community organisations have a vital balancing role
to play in the system of healthy democratic governance, such civic action must
be valued, respected and nurtured. A society without such active voluntary
involvement is in terminal decline.
European Landscape Convention calls for a considerable sense of vision and a
deep understanding of the true quality of life.
requires a statesman and stateswoman perspective, which can prove difficult for
politicians engaged in the demanding day-to-day work of governance.
should not be a cause for despair for us, in fact it should be a wake up call
because if we really believe that landscape is important, then there is a
challenge for all of us to communicate landscape, landscape quality and the
European Landscape Convention not alone to our politicians, but to the
electorate to whom the politicians are most likely to listen.
Alliance Ireland through its public landscape forums, published proceedings,
surveys and lobbying has made a major contribution in a relatively short period
of time to ensuring that landscape is on the Irish agenda at national, regional
and local level.
participation in the development of the European Landscape Convention and the
promotion of the Convention in
week-long landscape event in Cork with its public lectures, exhibition,
discussions and the bringing together of this wonderful gathering of people from
all corners of Europe and beyond is very much intended to represent an important
step in meeting this challenge.
and colleagues, in Ireland and elsewhere we need only fear the landscape if we
fail to value it for its importance in our daily lives, - it is not something
remote, distant or inhuman, it is part of what we are. If we abuse and brutalise
our landscape it will however turn on us and on our societies in complex,
destructive ways. The challenge is about how we define civilisation and a
civilised sense of stewardship for our place and space on this wonderful planet.
My fellow speakers will now provide you with a comprehensive overview of the Irish Experience from different perspectives.