THE Government has banned the use of all poisons for pest control under new rules aimed at stopping the killing of birds of prey.
From today, there will be no poisons which can legally be used to kill birds or animals, apart from rats and mice.
And the new regulations also make it an offence for a person to use any type of meat, fish, egg or other animal substance as bait to poison birds or animals unless licensed to do so.
Anyone caught breaking the law is liable to a fine of up to €5,000 or a prison sentence of 12 months.
The move comes after a spate of poisonings in the last year which has resulted in the deaths of 12 birds of prey which are being re-introduced to Ireland.
The programme to re-introduce the golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and red kite has been opposed by a small minority and 12 birds have been poisoned including a golden eagle, red kite, white-tailed eagle and buzzard.
Both the Scottish and Norwegian governments, who licence the capture of eagles in their countries for release in Ireland, have expressed grave concern at the poisonings and failure to tackle the problem could result in the governments withdrawing their co-operation.
Environment Minister John Gormley said the poisonings gave a "very negative image" of Ireland.
"These regulations are to address the poisonings which resulted in the deaths of 12 eagles and other birds of prey earlier this year," he said.
"I am very concerned that these poisoning incidents could damage the projects to re-introduce the golden eagle, white-tailed eagle and red kite which are being funded by my department. Such actions are irresponsible as well as illegal and they give a very negative image of Ireland's farming and tourism sectors, nationally and internationally."
Golden eagles have bred in two locations in Donegal this year, while red kites have bred in Wicklow. The white-tailed eagles are still too young to breed.
The Department of Agriculture said the new regulations meant there was no pesticide registered or approved for poisoning of birds or foxes.
Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith asked people who need to control rats and mice to be very careful in the use of poisons, pointing out that there is a risk that birds such as barn owls can be accidentally killed if they eat a rat that has already eaten poison.
"Barn owls are a good friend to the farmer but sadly have become scarce in Ireland due in part to accidental poisoning," he said.