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'Little people' are protected by EU

COOLEY'S Slieve Foy Mountain is to become an official designated Area for the Protection of Little People by the European Union.

Representatives from the commission will be travelling to Ireland to formally announce it as a 'Designated Area of Protection for Flora, Fauna, Wild Animals and Little People' under the EU Habitats Directive.

The area that won Ireland's European Destination of Excellence in 2008 for its intangible heritage will host a public ceremony on Sunday next at 3pm in Carlingford to receive the official designation.

20 years ago a Leprechaun's suit and bones were found close to the wishing well on the Slieve Foy mountain by the late local businessman PJ O'Hare and have been on public display in his pub ever since. The discovery sparked the introduction of The Carlingford National Leprechaun Hunt where thousands descended on the mountain during the 80s to hunt for leprechauns. This led to the formation of a group who, while delighted to receive such a surge in visitors, still wanted to protect the little people and their habitat.

'This is another significant recognition from Europe in regards to our heritage and tourism product and the way in which it is responsibly managed', said Cooley Peninsula Tourism Officer Frances Taylor.

The Habitats Directive is intended to help maintain biodiversity within the European Union member states by defining a common framework for the conservation of wild plants and animals and habitats of community interest.

The working committee received a letter of confirmation this month. 'It is a long, detailed procedure and it has taken nearly eight years to secure the future of our heritage, culture and folklore.

' We are delighted in the knowledge that our little people will be protected from extinction and allowed to thrive on the mountains' said Mr Kevin Woods, one of the original members of the group.

In celebration of the award Carlingford National Leprechaun Hunt is being relaunched on Sunday March 28th. For further information log onto www.carlingfordleprechuan.