Community campaigners go to war over oyster farm on Wild Atlantic Way
A businessman who was given the go-ahead for an oyster farm the size of 21 football pitches at a tourist beach has hit back at critics, saying he's creating jobs in an area of unemployment.
Campaigners want a decision to grant permission for the oyster beds at Linsfort Beach, on Donegal's Inishowen peninsula reversed.
They've launched an online petition against the development on the Wild Atlantic Way, claiming the beach has been ruined by cages used to grow the oysters.
However, owner Derek Diver (30) says the year-round operation causes little inconvenience and is providing salaries to 21 local people. Former builders and ex-fishermen are among the staff in the labour-intensive business.
"We produce high-grade oysters and they are exported straight to France. We are proud of a premium product," he said.
"There have been a lot of claims made about what we are doing at Linsfort and a lot of what is being said is nonsense.
"We were granted the license to operate here and the rules are very strict. We adhere to all of them.
"At the end of the day I'm 30, I'm married with three children and we're trying to make a living.
"It's the same for 17 full-time and four part-time staff. We're all trying to stay here in Ireland and work here in an area where so many of our young people have left to find work overseas," said Mr Diver
And far from putting off visitors to the beach, he said he has been inundated with tourists wanting to learn more about his Lough Swilly oysters.
"We have people coming from Spain, Germany, France, the USA and Japan and they want to know more about what we do," he said.
"We might even consider tours, because it is becoming so popular."
Some local people, however, are campaigning to have the aquaculture licence, which was granted by the Department of Marine, revoked.
They are angry that an advertisement for the licence appeared in the Donegal Democrat newspaper, which doesn't circulate in Inishowen, although Mr Diver said this was the paper he was told to use by the Department.
"We have serious concerns for the environment and the impact on tourism on an important part of the Wild Atlantic Way," said Save Linsfort Beach spokeswoman Sharon Porter.
"There is plannng permission for an area the size of 21 football pitches - or 16 hectares - on one of Ireland's best beaches. The decision must be reversed," she said.
The Department of the Marine said that the developers of the oyster farm had adhered to all required planning regulations, and no objections had been lodged.