28 March 2017

The controversial Heritage Bill returns to the Seanad tomorrow, Wednesday 29th March for Committee stage, and Senator Kevin Humphreys, who is leading for the Labour Party, said:

“The current Heritage Bill proposals that will be debated again in the Seanad is based on bad science and will not give protection to the endangered species of Ireland. At present the Heritage Bill proposes a countrywide, 26 county ‘pilot scheme’ to be conducted over two years on how the cutting of hedgerows will affect wildlife.

“The study lacks a baseline to compare it to, making it impossible to know what the true effects of hedgerow cutting in August will be. This study is not enough to ensure that the proposed cutting of hedgerows will not negatively affect the wildlife that make their homes in Irish hedgerows.

“The cutting of hedgerows needs to be limited to ensure the protection of Irish wildlife. Many species key to the Irish ecosystem inhabit the hedgerows. The endangered bird species the Yellowhammer, the Green Finch and the Linnet all nest in hedgerows up to September, and will be negatively impacted by the cutting of hedgerows. The highly endangered Curlew would also be affected by the proposal to allow upland burning in March.

“Beyond these bird species bees, the back bone of the pollination ecosystem will be threatened by increases in cutting. The population of bees in Ireland has already dropped by 50% since 1980 and the protection of these pollinators must be constantly ensured in all environmental policy. The cutting of hedges also has potential to negatively affect bats, hedgehogs, butterflies, and other species that live in the hedgerows.

“One of the principal arguments put forward by the Government is that this is for road safety. That doesn’t stack up as Section 40 of the Wildlife Act already allows local authorities to cut hedges where there are road safety issues.

“I am calling on the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to rewrite this legislation and ensure any other bill dealing with this area is based on science and established fact.”

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