Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
The amendment proposes a new definition of "recreational and sporting needs" which shall not include golf courses. In the original iteration of the Bill economic, social and cultural needs were included as a factor for consideration. A significant and arguably an excessive concession was made by the Minister of State to also include recreational and sporting needs. This was a regrettable and regressive move. However, in our last debate on the Bill this already extraordinary concession was widened even further in the forcing through of amendment No. 19, an absolutely appalling amendment, to specifically allow for the de-designation of bog habitats to build, among other developments, golf courses. That Fine Gael Senators would force through this disgraceful amendment against the advice of their own Minister of State was shameful. It flies in the face of any attempt by the Fine Gael Party to speak with authority in tackling climate change and about the protection of national habitats and biodiversity. I hope the Senators who supported the amendment will think long and hard about what their support for that change to the Bill says about the attitude of this House and the Oireachtas to the movement which is demanding action on climate change. It puts all politicians in a bad light and I was ashamed to be a Member of this House when it was tabled. The Minister of State has acknowledged the damage it will do to the Bill and I hope he will be seeking internal disciplinary action within Fine Gael for the mass breaking of the Government Whip.
There is a definition of "greenway" in the Bill, but there is no definition of "recreational and sporting needs". That opens up a concern about how it might be interpreted. I urge the Minister of State to include some definition of “recreational and sporting needs (including greenways) appropriate to bog habitats”. The idea that a natural bog habitat would be destroyed to build a golf course would fill most people in the country with horror. We need to provide some assurance that that will not be the case and establish this House as one that is serious about tackling climate change and protecting the natural environment, of which we are the custodians. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendment. I have also tabled amendment No. 47 which would allow the Minister to ask the EPA to draw up guidelines for what would constitute recreational and sporting needs, in the absence of a definition being added to the Bill, and which I urge the Minister of State to accept as an alternative.