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Thousands of fires in beauty spots go unpunished with 10 prosecutions in the last 12 years

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Destruction: Fires in the Wicklow Mountains over the Easter weekend photographed by the Air Corps

Destruction: Fires in the Wicklow Mountains over the Easter weekend photographed by the Air Corps

Destruction: Fires in the Wicklow Mountains over the Easter weekend photographed by the Air Corps

Farmers were investigated for more than 400 suspected illegal fires last year and docked support payments in 80 cases.

But with more than 2,000 fires destroying many thousands of acres annually and fewer than one criminal prosecution a year, wildlife groups say the deterrents are not working.

Some farmers use burning to clear gorse and other unwanted vegetation in the run-up to the grazing season.