Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Heritage Bill 2016: Committee Stage
The first thing I wanted to do was look at the report as a result of that to get information but there is no report. I have heard from NGOs that the Minister has not been available over the last two years to discuss this issue with them. She has made herself available to other agencies but not to people who are also stakeholders. These people represent more than 25,000 people who have signed a petition. I turn to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and say those 25,000 people are their voters too. This whole argument is skewed in favour of a small minority of farmers who are probably putting pressure on the Minister. I appeal to the Minister to do the research but let us not open the season of August to hedge cutting because it will impact on a wide range of biodiversity. Equally, with the uplands, the gorse and furze is hugely important to the bees and pollinators in March. I received a letter from a full-time bee farmer in County Louth. His income is from the production of honey and he said if the upland areas are burnt, if that uncultivated land is destroyed, it will affect the foraging capacity of his bees, which will impact on the production of the honey. That will impact on the income he, as a full-time bee farmer in this country, will have for his family. We are developing artisan foods and products such as honey are extremely important as we try to put out an image of Ireland as the green country. This is a regressive step and I am shocked it is on the agenda. The Heritage Bill, in this regard, is far from a heritage Bill in terms of protection of the Irish environment. We have received huge numbers of letters from farmers, environmentalists, schoolteachers and pupils in the schools who value our nature and the beauty, aesthetic value and economic potential of the hedgerows.I ask the Minister to take account of what I am saying and, please, before we go any further, to provide us with scientific data or data from her consultation process that will convince us. We are far from convinced on the issue. It shows that we, as a nation, are showing no regard for our biodiversity and sustainability.