Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Heritage Bill 2016: Committee Stage
Sinn Féin holds a deep appreciation for the value of the natural, educational and cultural importance of hedgerows. They link our archaeological, geological, social and natural heritage. They are a utility in the present but mark the past and their values are multifunctional in both practical and spiritual forms. They enrich our understanding of history, ecology, rural society and farming practices. They give character to an area, giving aesthetic appeal and creating a sense of place. In practical terms, hedgerows are one of our greatest settings of biodiversity between our native flora and fauna, accommodating an array of bird life, insects, plants and mammals.
Equally, agriculture is one our greatest traditions and the farming community is a custodian of the rural environment, as has been mentioned. Many farmers are part of programme schemes designed to protect and enhance the environment, including providing deliberate and constructed habitats for wildlife, including birds. Senator Ó Clochartaigh mentioned Sinn Féin's record at Stormont in the last term of the Executive, when the Minister responsible for agriculture, Ms Michelle O'Neill, rejected an extension of the hedge cutting process. However, she did open her Department to listen to possible derogations from that legislation on a case-by-case basis, particularly where roadside hedgerows needed to be cut during the spring and summer months.
As part of this process, a forum should be provided to discuss how we are not the only species living on the planet and it is not here to serve us alone or the unjust economy we have created. Globally, capitalism and imperialism still eat away and erode the Earth, the fabric of which is devoured in the industrial process. Capitalism is not easily reconciled with sustainability and opportunities like this provide a forum to discuss and engage on sustainability. I look forward to speaking on section 8 and we will support amendments Nos. 1 and 6, as proposed by Senator Grace O'Sullivan.