Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 12 December 2018

No legislation around the use of crow bangers, despite complaints

Photo: Stock image
Photo: Stock image

Anne Lucey

The Department of the Environment and other authorities receive complaints specifically over the use of crow bangers especially by people living in rural areas - however there is no legislation specifically to deal with the bird scarers, as they are also referred to.

Local authorities too are getting complaints and, using EPA legislation on noise, they can take action against a person causing nuisance noise.

However the approach of county councils differs and at times it is up to individuals to bring the matter to the District Court themselves.

In Kerry, 13 complaints have been made to the council specifically over crow bangers, the council has revealed.

The use of the crow banger on the late Mr O’Mahony’s 100-acre tillage farm surrounding Rattoo Round Tower was central to the murder trial held in the Central Criminal Court in Tralee in October.

Anthony O’Mahony was on his way to take the crow banger from a shed and turn it on when he was killed by Ferris at around 8am on the morning of April 4, 2017. The spring wheat coming up had been sown the day after St Patrick’s Day.

The banger was needed to ward off crows and pigeons and had been switched on the previous Thursday.

The blue and red crow banger itself made an appearance and in a moment of drama was brought to the witness stand at the request of defence counsel Brendan Grehan as its workings were explained to the jury by a garda expert witness.

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Evidence had also been given how Kerry County Council was contacted on Monday, the day before Mr O’Mahony was killed before by Rattoo dairy farmer Pat Walsh. He told the trial he had to wear ear protection to cope with the late Mr O’Mahony’s banger.

Mr Walsh described the noise as “horrendous” with the banger going off every four minutes and 26 seconds. He said he rang the environment section of Kerry County Council.

Their advice to him was to keep a logbook, which they would send out to him.

“It would follow you everywhere,” Mr Walsh said of the echoing sound.

The advice on crow bangers in the Department of Environment guidelines on noise is also to approach whoever is causing the noise. However the trial heard from  several witnesses there was no point in approaching the late Mr O’Mahony.

Swiss man Michael Schumacher who owns a second  home near the ancient round tower of Rattoo told how he and his wife considered moving to a hotel in August 2016  to get away from the repetitive loud noise which caused ringing in her ears.

Michael Ferris himself, a dairy farmer, said the noise would “wake the dead” and had been going on for 30 years.

Garda expert witness, PSV inspector Garda Jim O’Brien  who conducted tests, found the late Mr O’Mahony’s crow banger to be louder than a shotgun at close range.

But there was the additional effect of percussion from the crow banger as it pushed air in front of it, said Garda O’Brien. He wore ear muffs to test it.

Frequency and positioning were other issues, the garda expert explained.

Complaints

Kerry County Council has confirmed this Monday it  had recorded 13 noise complaints in relation to crow bangers in the period 2013-2017. This was out of a total of 112 noise complaints ranging from  loud music, burglar alarms, and construction-related noise .

This year there have been two complaints about noise from crow banger use.

“It is worth noting that apart from the option of making a complaint to a local authority, the public have direct recourse to the District Court under the EPA Act to abate noise nuisance,” the council spokesman said.

Case study

In 2017 a civil case came  before the District Court in Kenmare about a crow-banger in a valley near Kilgarvan going off with such frequency and duration it was annoying neighbours.

The landowner in the Kilbanow area of Kilgarvan, Eamon Horgan of Suiomh Alainn, Kilgarvan,had been issued with a civil summons under a section of the Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1992.

Complainant Tracy Barrington of Brook Cottage, Kilbanow, Kilgarvan  lived near the crow banger and a number of neighbours in the valley were involved in the complaint, Conor Murphy, solicitor for Ms Barrington outlined to Judge David Waters when the matter came up again  on the civil list at Kenmare District Court on on the first Friday in February 2018.

Mr Murphy had characterised the device as "a propane gun" and said the valley "reverberates with noise" and he claimed it was having a devastating effect on people who live near it.

Mr Horgan who did not live in the valley needed to protect his silage from crows - and one of the points he would make was that this was an agricultural area, his solicitor Eoin Brosnan had said.

The complainants said the fact the banger was in a valley exacerbated the noise.

The matter later settled on terms and conditions, handed into Judge David Waters, The conditions ran to two pages.

Solicitor for the complainants, Mr Murphy has said while there is no specific legislation, he found how some local authorities, such as Limerick County Council  have recommendations about the use and positioning of "bird scarers”.

In turn these are adapted from the UK National Farmer's Union, where bird scarers have  been a matter of some contention.

The use of Crow Bangers has also been raised in the Dail.

Then  Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten in a written reply to the Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae in May 2017, said any issues with crow bangers came under general noise regulation rules governed by the EPA. There were no plans for specific legislation, the minister also said.

The minister referred to the the Department’s Guide to Noise Regulations, a four-page leaflet outlining what is open to persons complaining about noise, including the powers of a local authority.

“Current legislation in the area of noise does not specifically address the use of bird scarers (also referred to as crow bangers), and I have no plans to introduce such legislation,” Mr Naughten said.

A Guide to the Noise Regulations, on the legal remedies open to a person experiencing nuisance noise.

“A significant portion of farmland in County Limerick is used for growing crops and it is understandable that farmers take measures to deter bird infestation.

However, it should be borne in mind that the use of scarers has the potential to cause perceived noise nuisance for the occupants of nearby dwellings,” it said inviting submissions and also providing a link to

A Code of Practice published by the UK National Farmer's Union (NFU).

Limerick City and County Council would recommend that farmers using these devices, adhere to this Code of Practice, the main points of which is to avoid Causing a Nuisance.

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