OFFSHORE wind farms could seriously damage tourism in some of the country's most scenic beauty spots, it was warned yesterday.
Failte Ireland is particularly concerned about plans to build up to 400 wind turbines off the coastline between Killiney, Co Dublin and Arklow, Co Wicklow.
All of them, at 160 metres-high, would be visible from the shoreline.
Failte Ireland said it was not 'anti-wind farm' but had to protect the country's tourism industry.
"The physical beauty of our environment is the biggest driver of tourism here," marketing director Paul Keely told the Irish Independent. Under the 1933 Foreshore Act, the Department of the Marine can give licences to wind farms and the usual planning process, with its public hearings and appeals safeguards, does not apply.
At a maritime policy conference in Dublin yesterday, Mr Keely said there was a need to bring in a new wind farm licensing system which would allow stakeholders to voice opinions.
The backers of the Kish Bank Wind Farm Project off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow claim it has the potential to supply electricity to 200,000 people.
Their licence application, first made in 1998, is still being considered by the Department of the Marine.
Junior Marine Minister John Brown said there had to be consultation among all sectors to secure a future for coastal communities.