€1.75m spent to protect rare Hen Harrier
Forget about the millions of euro spent on turkeys this Christmas, Ireland's most expensive bird is the rare and protected Hen Harrier.
New figures show that the Government spend on the bird of prey in the 10 months to the end of October this year amounted to €1.75m -- or an average spend of over €5,000 per recorded adult bird.
The most recent national survey recorded between 128 and 172 breeding pairs across the country, giving an estimated total of 344 adult birds.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, the Department of Arts and Heritage confirmed that €1.75m was spent on conservation measures for the bird between January and October 20.
The largest proportion of the monies goes to farmers whose land is located in Special Protection Areas for the Hen Harrier. In the first 10 months of this year, farmers received €1.64m.
The highest amount was received by a Co Clare-based farmer who received €16,054 -- with two other farmers from that county receiving in excess of €14,000. Two farmers from Co Galway received the second and third highest amounts at €15,097 and €14,884.
The vast proportion of the remainder -- €97,342 -- went on farmer planner fees.
In a statement yesterday, the Department of Arts and Heritage said it believed that the overall spend on the Hen Harrier represented value for money for the taxpayer.
A spokesman said: "Without the traditional type of hill farming in Hen Harrier areas being supported, it would be expected that the Hen Harrier population would decline and possibly become extinct. The Hen Harrier is a magnificent bird of prey and a beautiful part of Ireland's natural heritage."
The spokesman also claimed that the scheme supported farmers to remain on the land.
"The general trend in the absence of such a scheme has been land abandonment and rural depopulation, and without this scheme it is likely that much more high nature value farmland and habitat would have been lost," he said.