Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 April 2018

Hedgecutting proposals an 'election gimmick to buy the farmers' vote'

Most political parties favour relaxing the regulations further to allow limited burning of land during March and hedge-cutting during August.
Most political parties favour relaxing the regulations further to allow limited burning of land during March and hedge-cutting during August.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Proposed new laws governing Ireland’s hedgerows were debated in the Seanad again last week with a number of Senators vocal in their opposition to the proposed legislation.

Their views were described as 'anti-rural' by some during the debate over whether the hedgecutting season will be extended by one month.

Labour Senator, Kevin Humphreys, was among those to lash out against the allegations.

“I will hear again the question of what would I know, being from Dublin 4? We know it as we are part of Ireland. We want to see all of Ireland thriving and ensure that agriculture is vibrant.

“We want to see a strong tourism industry but slashing and burning our hedges is not the way to do it,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s Fintan Warfield sympathised with these views and also hit out at Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ring.

He said he spoke with the Minister to express concern about the Bill.

“He responded in the most amazing way by saying he was glad that I was not from rural Ireland because if I was, I would actually understand it.

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“That kind of parochial language and the presumption that I am not interested in rural Ireland are extremely insulting to a political activist and someone who came to this House not in the interests of any one constituency but those of society.

“I am interested in what happens in all of Ireland,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grace O’Sullivan of the Green Party, another vocal critic of the bill, said she welcomed the debate on this Heritage Bill 2016 saying it allowed her to go and consult farmers.

“I am a farmer's daughter and live in rural Ireland. My father was a member of the IFA for all of his life.

“I have used the opportunity to talk to farmers about the Bill to assure myself that I was not missing part of the picture.

“I knew that heritage was hugely important to farmers. We said in the last debate that they, with local authorities, were the managers of hedgerows. In many ways, they are the custodians of our landscape,” she said.

“It is an attempt to damage our natural environment. It will damage the rural way of life and is potentially damaging to the farming community.”

Senator David Norris did not mince his words when he said the proposals were an “election gimmick to buy the farmers' vote”.

“For that reason, Fianna Fáil colluded in it. It was complete and absolute nonsense,” he said.

On the other side of the argument, Paul Daly of Fianna Fail highlighted that under the existing law from last week,  it is now illegal and impossible to carry out any burning.

“In the previous 10 to 15 days, we were subject to storms Doris and Ewan. How could anyone carry out controlled burning? What is the difference in one day per week?

“The Bill suggests the Minister will define the geography, timing, location and who is permitted to carry out the burning. It is not a free-for-all.

“It is made to sound as if it is passed and that on the first day of August every farmer in the country will be lined up with his tractor and hedge-cutter to go and get the birds.

“That is not the position. This is going to be controlled,” he said.

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