Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Preserving Ireland's Natural Heritage: Discussion
I had to leave the committee meeting briefly because I had to speak in the Dáil. When I was going out the door, I heard Mr. Lumley talking about badgers and saying badgers had TB and he appeared to be worried about that. One does not get milk from badgers. Farmers cannot survive on badgers. Badgers spread TB to other animals. Farmers can be taken before the courts if they are found to be netting badgers, which is unfair because for a couple of lorries to have to take away 50 or 60 of a farmer's cows because the cows have caught TB is denying the farmer his or her livelihood. That is very sad and very hard for the farmer. Deer also spread TB. Large-scale deer culls need to take place.
In regard to curlews, magpies and grey crows are cleaning out their nests and those of pheasants.
The witness referred to the rivers. God almighty, to say that we cannot clear out the Shannon or the Flesk River in Kerry, what frame of mind are people in at all? Do people think we can raise the houses? Do they think we can raise the roads? Do they realise the hardship 22 families faced in Glenflesk a few years ago because the Flesk River has not been cleaned out for 30 or 40 years? One man's last trip out of his house was in a boat. His name is Paddy Healy and the last trip out of his house was when the fire brigade had to take him from his own house in a boat. To think that someone would suggest that we cannot clean out the river is disrespectful.
As Deputy Fitzmaurice said, farmers are being penalised for allowing their land to become overgrown. Maybe some of them have burned it but in the cases that happened this year, we were afraid that others might have set fire to these places. The local farmers cannot be blamed, or no one can prove it. There should be a policy that anyone who has forestry opens a fire belt around it. Farmers who have material that would burn ought to have a firebelt around their place so that the fire cannot come in from another farm. I have been propagating this idea at local council level and here. Coillte used to help the farmer locally to do what was known as controlled burning. We need to return to that. If farmers were not penalised, they might not burn these places. The fact is they cannot take a mowing machine, lawn-mower or hedge cutter into some of these places because the terrain is so rough and so bad, yet a Department official can say it is overgrown and cut the farmer's payment. As Deputy Fitzmaurice said, if more than 20% of the area is found to be overgrown, the farmer loses 100% of their payment, not 20%.
Mr. Lumley said agriculture was the lead threat to Irish biodiversity. Farmers and landowners are the best custodians of the land. They had to fight to hand it down to their sons and in many places are paying down large loans in order to hold on to their places. They have not and will not do anything harmful to their places. The witnesses spoke about climate change. I will argue until I die that only one person has control of the climate. There have been changing patterns in climate going back over the years, before there was ever a combustible engine. No one can disprove that and that is a fact.
Mr. Lumley spoke of the house and that he was not aware of it. I can tell him about the people who were denied the house and the halving of the 365 acres. I have no problem naming Michael J. Horgan, a constituent, a serial complainant who denied them the right-----