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Minister’s response on National Parks and gorse fires weak at best – McLellan

18 June, 2015

Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson for Culture and Heritage Sandra McLellan has criticised Minister Heather Humphreys for failing to take the issue of gorse fires in our national parks seriously enough. This came after Deputy McLellan questioned Minister Humphreys on the issue in the Dáil this morning.

Deputy McLellan said:

“The Minister’s response to my question today was weak at best. I remain no clearer on where her priorities lie. I asked the Minister if she aware that upland habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate in this state and that National Parks are currently at huge risk. I also asked her what measures her Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage is taking to protect them.

“She recently maintained that fires were not an issue for your staff or Department except where it occurred in Killarney National Park. This is not good enough.

“In recent months, fires have not only occurred in Killarney, but in Wicklow National Park as well. Many of the upland areas that have been scorched are within Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. These are our most important biodiversity areas and are managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, an agency in her department. It has been well documented now that extensive and devastating fires have raged through the country this year.

“Regarding the Gorse Fire epidemic, Kerry is one of several counties worse affected with a 700% increase in the number of gorse fires in the county in the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same period last year. 

“Given this 700% increase, it’s abundantly obvious that current legislation isn’t working. The Minister today side stepped my question if she will be changing section 40 of the Wildlife Act, which makes it an offence to burn gorse between 1 March to 31 August and my question on where she stood on the lobby to change the start date back to 15 April. 

“The Minister must take action sooner rather than later to preserve our areas of protected natural beauty that are not only important areas of biodiversity, but also attract thousands of visitors every year. There is too much at stake to be lost through inaction.” 

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