Greens: Serious gorse fires ‘inevitable’ under Government plans

9th May 2017

Enforcement of laws against illegal fires is essential – extending burning season will make situation worse
The Green Party said today that serious gorse fires will become more prevalent if Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys gets her way and passes the deeply flawed Heritage Bill. The claim was made as a number of serious gorse fires continue around the country, following a number of weeks of blazes.
Last minute amendments introduced by Minister Humphreys, after the Green Party, Civil Engagement Group, Labour, and Sinn Féin had won concessions to tone down the so-called ‘slash and burn bill’, would extend the season for hedge cutting and gorse burning.
Speaking today, Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan said: “Incredibly beautiful landscapes have been devastated by massive fires in recent weeks. At the moment, thousands of acres of forestry is at risk in Cloosh Valley, Co. Galway, due to an out of control gorse fire.
“Gorse fires are incredibly destructive and dangerous. Some burning is healthy and important, but the recent spate of fires are out f control. Burning is illegal from 1st March through to September, yet the country has been burning continuously all March, April and now into May. There is little chance that all these fires were accidental. Government needs to act to support the National Parks and Wildlife Service in their hard work to prevent these catastrophes from happening. Enforcement is essential to deter illegal fires. At present, no farmers have been sanctioned under Single Farm Payment rules for illegal gorse fires.
“On the back of these fires, Minister Humphreys must reconsider her obsession with extending the burning season through the Heritage Bill. The Heritage Bill has just passed in the Seanad despite huge opposition from numerous groups and 27,000+ citizens. It aims to extend burning into March legally, worsening the problem and doing untold damage to nesting birds and setting dangerous fires at a time that we can now obviously see is too warm and dry for burning to be done safely.
“Extension of the burning season with no increased resources for enforcement will inevitably lead to more serious fires like the ones we have seen in recent weeks.
“We’re calling on Minister Humphreys to reconsider her proposals. My colleagues in the Dáil will be fighting to amend the Heritage Bill to scale back the destructive measures proposed in it, and we hope that the same co-operation among opposition groups as we saw in the Seanad can overcome this.”