Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Heritage Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
I thank the Acting Chairman for letting me in. I am sorry I was not here earlier, albeit I was here for the votes and I am aware that this is a difficult and challenging matter. The Bill has had a long gestation and it has been widely debated. We have met people from all sides on it. I should declare an interest first in that I am an agricultural and plant contractor who is often involved in clearing vegetation and work like that.
We have to get the balance right between the environment, our flora and fauna and the need to have productive crops. I recall that ten years ago, set-aside was at its height. There is still set-aside. One was paid by Europe to spray the finest land in the Golden Vale in Tipperary and everywhere else in the country. It was part of the EU's deal-making. To this day, I consider it to have been abhorrent. It was a scorched earth policy. Everything was sprayed in the fields and one was paid to do it. It was regressive and contrary to nature. A field mouse could not live there. There were just ploughed fields. It was like the scorched earth one sees in wartime. As such, policies we have had here and at EU level over a long number of years have been detrimental to wildlife.
I remember cutting hay with a finger bar mower. One cut from the headlands in and tried to mind the corncrake and pheasants. There was generally a buachaill or cailín on the tractor too and one often got off the tractor to encourage the pheasants and other wildlife to move away from the machinery and back to the sward. That does not happen with the massive equipment being used now. A large mower is brought to a field to cut an 18 ft or 20 ft swathe with everything going into the middle. God help anything that is before it. That is mechanisation and modernisation, however, and the way agricultural contractors and farmers must operate to keep up with the times.
The cost of these machines is unbelievable.
The reason I supporting parts of the Bill is that when it comes down to either the health and safety of a human being or the safety and protection of wildlife species, I come down straight on the side of the health and safety of a human being. We are debating the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport's Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 for the past God knows how long and some of us are being accused of being anti-----