Ann Fitzgerald: Where is the leadership on the issue of hedge removal?
Last week, the Department of Agriculture circulated a press release stating that Minister Michael Creed, "has issued a strong reminder to farmers and advisors" on the illegal removal of hedgerows.
However, pardon me if this sounds pedantic, but the release only asserts the general guidelines on the protection of hedgerows and cites possible penalties for their illegal removal. There is not one direct quote from the minister.
Successive farm ministers and the farm organisations have (rightly) been forceful in calling on dog owners to act responsibly during the lambing season … but the silence is deafening on a practice that is blighting the countryside.
Nor does our farm advisory body Teagasc come up smelling of roses, as it were. While its various publications highlight the value of hedging, there are few hedges to be seen at either Moorepark or Grange.
The Government keeps talking about the importance of forests, saying they will go some way to meet our 2030 emissions reduction target; still, every year, we hear that our targets for afforestation are being missed.
Yet hedges are effectively narrow strips of woodland, important habitats and corridors for wildlife.
Our hedgerows are home to some 37 species of shrubs and trees and 105 species of wild flora. The older the hedge, the greater the diversity.
As well as accommodating wildlife, hedges have other proven roles, in controlling flooding, maintaining water quality (for spawning fish), preventing disease spread, etc.