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Minister O’Brien announces Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) establishment day and new CEO

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien TD, has today (17 May 2023) announced that the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) will be established on 17th July, 2023. Making the announcement at the Wind Energy Ireland Offshore Wind 2023 Conference at Dublin Royal Convention Centre, the Minister added that Ms. Laura Brien, currently Chief Executive of the Health Insurance Authority, has accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer of MARA. 

The establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) on the 17th July 2023, marks the transition to the new maritime consenting regime and will be a key enabler in respect of Ireland’s ambitions for the Offshore Renewable Energy sector. The new agency will have responsibility for assessing applications for Maritime Area Consents (MACs) which will be required before developers of offshore wind and other projects in the maritime area can make a planning application. It will also be responsible for granting licences for certain activities in the maritime area.

Commenting on the plans to establish MARA and the selection of a CEO, the Minister stated:

“I am delighted to announce that MARA will be established on the 17th July 2023. MARA will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area and comes about as part of the biggest reform of marine governance in Ireland in almost a century. MARA will have in place the process and procedures relating to MAC applications for Offshore Renewable Energy and for marine infrastructure that supports the delivery and deployment of offshore wind projects, such as port development work. This is in line with Government’s decision on Prioritisation of Renewable Energy Maritime Plans and Projects as a response to the Energy crisis.”

In relation to the selection of a CEO, the Minister said that filling this key leadership position is a critical step in establishing the new maritime consenting regime. 

“During this period of great change in how the State manages its maritime space, MARA will have a key role to play. It is important that the CEO provide effective leadership and strategic vision to the organisation and I’m delighted to announce that Laura Brien will be taking on this role. She has extensive experience in the area of regulation across a number of industries, and this will be crucial in leading the new agency.”

Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan TD followed:

“In recent months we have seen the introduction of a robust policy framework for offshore wind, which has given investors confidence, as demonstrated by last week’s excellent result of the first offshore renewable energy auction.

“I welcome today’s announcement regarding the establishment of MARA and commend Minister O’Brien and his officials for the hard work that has gone into establishing this important organisation. I also wish to congratulate Laura Brien on her appointment to the role of CEO.

“MARA will play a critical role from its beginnings and I look forward to our offshore renewable targets being met, and to a clean energy transformation for the health and economic prosperity of our citizens.”

Incoming CEO Ms Laura Brien commented:

“I am very pleased to be taking up the role of Chief Executive of MARA and working with the team to build the skills and expertise to deliver on MARA’s mandate.  MARA will be a key enabler supporting delivery of projects of strategic importance including offshore renewable energy, ports development, cabling and telecoms projects, and many uses of the maritime area.  I look forward to working with the Chairperson, the Board and the broader stakeholder community to achieve MARA’s strategic ambitions in support of sustainable development of our maritime resource.” 


Note for Editors:

The Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 (MAP Act) establishes a new marine planning system, underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Policy Statement (in development), guided by the National Marine Planning Framework, and consisting of a new licensing and development management regime from the high water mark to the outer limit of the State’s continental shelf, administered by An Bord Pleanála, the coastal local authorities and the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA). 

This new agency, under the aegis of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, will be responsible for consenting and enforcement functions in the maritime area. The Government has already decided that MARA will be based in Wexford in line with regionalisation policies under the National Planning Framework.  

This is a major transformation of the marine planning system and a key element to ensuring the new marine planning system is operational as soon as possible centres around building MARA from the ground up so that it is adequately equipped to fulfil its regulatory role. 

MARA’s regulatory role, broadly, encompasses the following functions: 

  1. assessing and granting all Maritime Area Consents (MACs); MACs will be required before an applicant/developer can apply for development permission in the maritime area;  
  2. granting licences for activities in the maritime area (e.g.  environmental surveys), 
  3. ensuring robust compliance through enforcement measures, and 
  4. managing the existing State Foreshore portfolio of leases and licences.


Chief Executive

Ms. Laura Brien has accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer of MARA and is expected to take up duty on 10 July 2023. Ms. Brien has over 25 years experience in the area of regulation across a number of industries, in particular the energy sector. Laura is currently Chief Executive/Registrar of the Health Insurance Authority.  She was previously a Director at the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) (2014-2020), where she held various roles covering responsibility for Energy Markets, Water, and Compliance.   She was a member of the Bureau of the OECD Network of Economic Regulators. Prior to joining the CRU, she was senior economic advisor to ComReg, the Irish telecommunications regulator, from 2012 to 2014. Earlier in her career she worked advising utilities, governments and regulators in the energy sector in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Areas of work included introduction of private sector investment, development of renewable energy projects, financing and regulation. She holds a Commerce degree and a Diploma in Corporate Governance from University College Dublin, Ireland and an M.Phil in Economics from Oxford University, UK.

Appointments to the Board of MARA

The Minister had previously announced that Mr. Mark Mellett, Vice Admiral DSM (Rtd), former Defence Forces Chief of Staff, would be the Chair of MARA and the following individuals will be formally appointed to the Board on establishment day: 

Ms. Karen Banks

Dr. Ruth Brennan

Dr. James Massey

Mr. Philip Daly

Ms. Niamh Kenny

Mr. Patrick Gibbons

Mr. Paul O’Neill              -              Department of Environment, Climate and Communications

Mr. Patrick Moran        -              Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform

Ms. Alma Walsh             -              Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

Mr. Brendan McGrath -            County and City Management Association

Results of Ireland’s first offshore wind auction

The provisional results of Ireland’s first offshore wind auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1) were announced last week. This is a landmark moment for Ireland’s renewable energy future and a significant milestone for climate action.  

The auction results surpassed expectations. The extremely competitive price secured — an average of €86.05/MWh — is one of the lowest prices paid by an emerging offshore wind market in the world. 


In total, over 3GW of capacity has been procured from four projects. This will deliver the largest volume of renewable energy Ireland has ever procured at auction — equivalent to over a third of Ireland’s entire electricity consumption this year. It is enough to power over 2.5 million Irish homes with clean electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 1 million tonnes in 2030.   

See here for further details.