Heather Humphreys condemns poisoning of rare white-tailed sea eagle
Minister Heather Humphreys has condemned the poisoning of a white-tailed sea eagle found dead in its nest.
The illegal killing in Connemara is the 13th to hit Ireland's reintroduction programme since it began in 2007.
Officials revealed that the bird, which had mated, was only days away from laying eggs. It was found dead on April 1 by a conservation ranger. The bird was released in Killarney National Park in 2009 and settled in Connemara in 2012.
Ms Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said it was a huge blow.
"This is a very serious incident, as the killing of this breeding female has effectively put an end to any breeding attempt of this beautiful species in west Galway for at least another five years," she said.
"It is particularly disappointing considering this bird was due to lay eggs shortly."
The Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service arranged toxicology tests, which confirmed it was poisoned.
Officials say that poisoning - which is generally intended to kill animals such as foxes or crows, but has been banned since 2010 - remains the greatest threat to the re-introduction of white-tailed eagles.
Later, Ms Humphreys attended a civic reception in Cavan town, where she and Cathaoirleach Shane P O'Reilly enjoyed the music of the children of Cavan Comhaltas.
Fine Gael councillor Winston Bennett said it was "a very appropriate way" to honour her.
"It is the first time we have had a female elected in Fine Gael in the constituency, and it's the first time we've had a minister in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan.
"The event was about honouring and recognising those achievements," he said.