Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

‘Next thing they’ll be asking to leave the middle of the road free for nests’ - Danny Healy Rae pushes for roadside ditches to be cut year-round

Claire Fox

Roadside ditches should be cut all year round, according to Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae.

Speaking at a meeting on the Heritage Bill this week, Mr Healy Rae supported the Bill’s plan to allow for hedge cutting from August 1 each year rather than September 1, and added that roadside hedges should be cut all year-round for the safety of road users in rural Ireland.

“Roadside hedges should be cut all year round, full stop, for the safety of the road users. Birds are not so pushed to be building their nests on the roadsides where lorries will blow their feathers off of them to smithereens.

“It’s not fair. The next thing is, are people going to ask to leave the middle of the road for nests or for some  insect or some other thing? All we’re asking for is fair play for people who are using our public roads. I make no apologies to anyone here asking for the hedges on roads to be cut all the year round.

“We’ll support you with the birds and the bees and everything else but you must be reminded that ground nesting birds are being affected by grey crows, by magpies, by mink, by badgers, by pine martens and there’s no talk in the world about doing anything for them.

"Who’s taking the pheasants eggs’? They’re being killed by other vermin and there’s nothing being asked or done about that,” he said.

At present, hedge cutting is prohibited from March 1-August 31, while the Heritage Bill is proposing that there should be more flexibility when it comes to the time-frame allowed for cutting hedges.

Alex Copland of BirdWatch Ireland told the meeting that August hedge cutting will decimate an already declining bird population.

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“Yellow Hammers have declined by 90pc in the last 25 years. My worry is that if you start hedge cutting  in August you could decimate that population. We should be taking action to protect them, not action that will put them at more risk."

Eddie Punch of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association (ICSA) said that farmers and contractors need certainty from this Bill as to when they are allowed cut hedges and added that the extra month of cutting in August would be of benefit to contractors who carry out the majority of hedge cutting on farms.

“From our point of view we want clarity that a farmer knows hedge cutting can be done in August without having to get permission. It’s about making sure contractors make sure they have enough spread of time to get all the work in a given county done, when you’re relying on contractors to get work done it doesn’t fit in with applications. It has to get done,” he said.

Mr Punch also pointed out that farmers in Ireland are committed to growing hedgerows on their land compared to other countries in Europe.

"Farmers in Ireland are very committed to hedgerows and that is a testament to the fact that farmers want hedgerows as part of a diverse farming landscape. It’s fair to say that Irish farmers are streets ahead of farmers in other countries. We have a much more intricate pattern of hedgerows in excess of what you’d see in other European countries.”

However, the Green Party urged those present at the meeting that hedge cutting contractors should work around the nesting patterns of birds in an effort to improve the environment and reap the benefits of future CAP payments which will be based heavily on compliance with agriculture targets.

It said that we have to get the contractors to work around their timetable, we can’t talk to the yellow hammer and say ‘would you not change your fledgling time?’ 'Do our contractors bend to nature or does nature get shoved off?' it asked.

A spokesperson for the Green Party said that Irish agriculture will need to sit down with the environment movement and start realising that future CAP payments are going to depend on us getting it right.

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