PRESS RELEASE: Irish Wildlife Trust welcomes condemnation of illegal fires by Minister Malcolm Noonan but more must be done

Apr 01


01st April 2022 

Irish Wildlife Trust welcomes condemnation of illegal fires by Minister Malcolm Noonan but more must be done


The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) strongly welcomes the robust condemnation of illegal fires by Minister of State for Heritage & Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan however a lot more needs to be done if we are to break the annual cycle of destructive fires.

Last year, in our reaction to the fire that destroyed a large swathe of Killarney National Park, we called for emergency measures which could be deployed including:

  • Suspension of ‘eligibility’ rules that penalise farmers for having scrub vegetation on their land;
  • Expediting management measures for Natura 2000 sites (already required under law and something for which the European Commission is taking legal proceedings against Ireland in the European Court of Justice);
  • A prohibition on all burning of land, regardless of the date;
  • Expanding Coillte Nature to restore upland habitats which were planted with conifer plantations and which are widely accepted to have been put in the wrong place.

No progress has been made on any of these fronts.

Furthermore, the Minister, along with his colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, need to go much further than one-off, annual condemnations which are quickly forgotten. We must have a sustained information and education programme which clearly communicates the damage fire does and the penalties for setting illegal fires. We must see greater penalties for those convicted and greater effort put into bringing prosecutions.

There is also a need for all farming organisations to strongly condemn illegal fires. It is not enough to ‘not condone’ them or to point to other possible sources of fires at this time of year. Equivocation and silence are effectively a nod and a wink to those who feel impunity in destroying the countryside these organisations claim to defend.

IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty says “we are simply not taking this problem seriously enough. There is a lot that can be done in the short term that is not being done. There are other things that will take longer, such as developing systems to reward farmers for restoring natural habitats, but we see precious little progress in this area also”.

As it stands, we can expect more fires in the coming weeks and a repeat cycle in 2023.

CONTACT: Padraic Fogarty IWT Campaigns Officer