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:
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.