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Sherlock scorns Heritage Bill pilot of 26 counties as a joke



Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, speaking on the Heritage Bill in the Dáil on Tuesday evening, described Section 8 of the Bill, which would allow hedgerow cutting and gorse burning dates to be extended to run from August to March as an “absolute joke” as it sought to describethe provision as a 26 county pilot.

“I pour scorn on the notion of selling this legislation as a two-year pilot covering all 26 counties,” said Deputy Sherlock.

“I am not the first person to make this point, but when has this country ever used pilot programmes that cover all counties? Previously, there might be one, two, four or six pilot programmes in every region. Are the Ministers and her officials serious about this and asking us to take it seriously? It is an absolute joke of a provision. BirdWatch Ireland’s submission reads: The legislation is being sold as a 2-year ‘Pilot’ period which covers all 26 counties but no methodology for such a pilot has been provided, no baseline data has been gathered. Most worryingly, Section 8 of the Bill is not subject to the ‘Pilot’ period, it can continue indefinitely.”

Deputy Sherlock stressed that farmers in North and east Cork had raised frears with him on the Bill, along with the inability of local authorities to follow through on effective hedge cutting contracts

“I am not a dyed in the wool, die in a ditch environmentalist, but I hope I have common sense. I grew up spending large swathes of my time in the countryside and living in a town where one need only walk a mile to be out in the countryside. One had an understanding of the seasons and how they worked. Nesting was always vital and understood by rural dwellers. For every Deputy who tells the House that farmers are custodians and will make the right decisions, many farmers in my area have expressed to me concerns about what is being proposed in this Bill. Their concerns are echoed in the correspondence we have received from the likes of BirdWatch Ireland, with people telling us that Ireland’s legal protections for nature are regressing. I have had my issues with An Taisce, which is a stakeholder body, entering objections to young people’s planning applications in rural Ireland. I have my issues with many people who are headquartered, as it were, in Dublin and seek to profess widely of their knowledge of the dynamics of rural Ireland, but I do not know anyone who would disagree with the logic in BirdWatch Ireland’s fears about this legislation, particularly sections 7 and 8. I do not know to which vested interest these sections are pandering, but they are against nature.

If the right resources and budgets were allocated to local authorities during the current window of opportunity for hedge cutting, every single hedgerow in the counties we represent could be cut annually or biannually where necessary and the red herring of protecting the leanaí going to school could not be used.”

Deputy Sherlock also urged the Government to have regards to concerns raised by beekeepers.

“In one email, the correspondent – a beekeeper in east Cork – told me that the person’s apiaries had decreased in size from an average of 15 in the early 1990s to, at best, nine today. Honey bees are a great indicator species of the environment, as they only forage within a radius of 1.5 miles. The decrease can mostly be attributed to changes in farming practices such as hedge cutting and hedgerow removal. For that reason, the correspondent urged me to vote against sections 7 and 8. This is testimony from someone with an interest in beekeeping. Another person was concerned that the changes to the hedge cutting dates would lead to further declines in populations of the red listed yellowhammer, the linnet and the greenfinch and reduce essential food supplies for pollinators, of which one third are threatened with extinction.”

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