9 May 2017
By Bryan Smyth
The Green Party in Cork said that serious gorse fires – like the the blazes that broke out yesterday at Skibbereen and Schull, and recently in Gougane Barra, Kealkill, and the Sheepshead and Beara peninsulas – will become more prevalent if Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys, gets her way and passes the deeply flawed Heritage Bill, according to the Cork Greens.
Last minute amendments introduced by Minister Humphreys in the Seanad, after the Green Party, Civil Engagement Group, Labour, and Sinn Féin had won concessions to tone down the so-called ‘slash and burn bill’, would extend the season for hedge cutting and gorse burning.
Green Party representative for Cork South Central, Lorna Bogue, said: “Incredibly beautiful landscapes have been devastated by massive fires in recent weeks. We have seen the devastation locally, with the fires in West Cork. Gorse fires threaten lives and livelihoods – the Government must ensure proper enforcement of the legislation dealing with gorse burning, and abandon plans to extend the burning season into March.”
Her words were echoed by the party’s representative in North South, Oliver Moran, who said: “No-one can condone burning at this time of year. It’s completely against the law and you can see the devastation it causes. It’s incomprehensible that the Minister would actually be considering encouraging further burning late into Spring. When you see the energy that the emergency services, volunteers and Defence Forces have to put into controlling these blazes – and the upset that people have hearing the screams of animals being burned alive – you just have to wonder what she is thinking.”
Green Party senator, Grace O’Sullivan, said: “Gorse fires are destructive and dangerous. Some burning is healthy and important, but the recent spate of fires are out of control. Burning is illegal from 1st March through to September, yet the country has been burning continuously all March, April and now into May. There is little chance that all these fires were accidental. The Government needs to act to support the National Parks and Wildlife Service in their hard work to prevent these catastrophes from happening. Enforcement is essential to deter illegal fires. At present, no farmers have been sanctioned under Single Farm Payment rules for illegal gorse fires.”
“On the back of these fires, Minister Humphreys must reconsider her obsession with extending the burning season through the Heritage Bill. The Heritage Bill has just passed in the Seanad despite huge opposition from numerous groups and 27,000+ citizens. It aims to extend burning into March legally, worsening the problem and doing untold damage to nesting birds and setting dangerous fires at a time that we can now obviously see is too warm and dry for burning to be done safely.”