Senator gets into a flap after gulls try to snatch pet dog
A SENATOR called for swift action to clamp down on unruly seagulls after the birds tried to abduct a "startled" woman's pet Chihuahua.
Fianna Fail's Ned O'Sullivan created a flutter in the Seanad by saying the birds, which he described as "sky rats", have "lost the run of themselves" and are becoming a threat to public safety.
Later he revealed to the Irish Independent he had been contacted by a member of the public after raising the issue, who claims that her pet Chihuahua was almost abducted by a seagull.
"This is now a public safety issue. That woman was startled after the seagull went after her little Chihuahua," he said.
"We have to call a halt on seagulls. There are little kids in playgrounds worried about being attacked."
Environment Minister Alan Kelly indicated last night he would examine ways to control the birds.
However Mr O'Sullivan's comments have been sharply criticised by one of the country's leading bird experts, who said the remarks "betray a total lack of knowledge" of the natural world.
Eric Dempsey said such attitudes led to the extinction of golden eagles. "The actual birds he's talking about are herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls. Before he makes comments of that nature he should check the status of these birds, because they have suffered enormous declines in recent years," he said.
He said cities were ideal nesting sites for seagulls as the tall buildings and rooftops offered similar conditions to sea cliffs. The closure of landfill sites had driven many birds into cities and they were scavengers by nature, he said.
He added: "The Senator's comments betray a total lack of knowledge of this area. When the Senator says they're attacking children, I think he's been watching Hitchcock's film 'The Birds'."
And Lord Mayor Christy Burke also played down the senator's claims.
"From housing and emigration to litter and anti-social behaviour, there are a range of issues that require greater focus by the authorities in this city than the issue of seagulls.
"The senator is entitled to his view, but I would respectfully say that there is not a major seagull issue in Dublin. I invite him to send in any proposals to my office and I will examine them."
The Kerry-based senator had earlier told colleagues that he has "nothing against pigeons", but added that he is "very much against seagulls".
"They're very raucous. They're keeping people awake," Mr O'Sullivan told the Seanad as it broke for the summer recess yesterday.
"I saw that they're getting so cheeky now that they attack young children and dispossess them of their lollipops and stuff like that.
"They're not seagulls, they really are vermin. They're scavenger gulls, dump gulls," he added. He said the onus was now on the minister to act and that he wanted to see the birds placed on Dublin City Council's pest control scheme. A spokesperson for Minister Kelly last night told the Irish Independent that any proposals sent in by Mr O'Sullivan will be examined.
"If the senator has proposals to control the seagulls in Dublin, he is invited to send them in," the spokesperson added.
Ian O'Doherty: Page 35