Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Heritage Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
I am not misinformed and stand by my comments. My experts are the leading experts in the country. Even in Irish, the Deputy is using the language of the red top. We need an even-handed level-headed fact-led debate.
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae also is not here.
I am sorry to hear about the lady who lost her eye. As legislators in a democracy our job is to legislate in a balanced way for the entire citizenry. Our country dwellers are the architects and layers of our hedges and we need to respect this and their respect for the landscape they have created and nurtured. I am glad Deputy Boyd Barrett agrees that safety issues are important and that hazards must be dealt with. Section eight ensures that a person dealing with a hazard is not in breach of the Wildlife Act 1976 by doing so and to oppose the section is to say that the conflict between the Roads Act and the Wildlife Act 1976 should continue and a person complying with one is in breach of the other. To me that is not acceptable. Deputy Boyd Barrett is not here so I will leave the remainder of my response to him.
Deputy Eamon Ryan's amendment No. 27 would mean that a landowner dealing with an immediate hazard would have to await a local authority order or action and could not comply with their obligations under the Roads Act. The Deputy is fantastic at reusing and recycling arguments already made and addressed but the protection of nature and the birds under section 22 of the Wildlife Act 1976 stands. There is a convention in this House of not attacking officials who accompany a Minister and it is unfair of the Deputy to attack officials who have no right of reply in this House. I did not refer to contractors on Committee Stage. The Deputy is misremembering, perhaps due to the amount of repetition.
I thank Deputies Fitzmaurice and Michael Collins for their contributions. Farmers are the primary custodians of our landscape and biodiversity and I spent a lot of time talking to my colleague Deputy Creed about how our two Departments can work more closely together to mutually reinforce our policies and shared interests.
I refer to Deputies Bríd Smith and Burton's contributions. This Bill also applies to urban hedgerows. The funding of local authorities is a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and this Bill will introduce a regulated regime for cutting hedges in August. The Deputies are introducing the rural-urban divide, I never brought that up. There was a consultation, this is a pilot scheme and Deputy Burton approved the Bill as Tánaiste.
I thank Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Ó Cuív for the clarity they brought to some of the issues this Bill is seeking to address.
Other than his final comments, Deputy Mattie McGrath's contribution reflects the complexity and interlinking of issues dealing with biodiversity in that the single issue of cutting the road facing side of hedges is not the Armageddon that some Deputies have described.