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Heritage Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] Deputy Ó Cuív initiated what is a very good initiative that is very popular in rural Ireland. I think the small extension which the Government has made consequent upon more prosperity is ridiculously small. Right around rural Ireland there is a problem with employment. There is some employment but there is not enough for all of the people who want to be active and who can contribute. Part of the solution to some of the problems which have been aired tonight is around essentially looking after the habitat in a way which is good for humans and lets the people living there, whether it is the middle of winter or the middle of summer, live in a reasonable way, just as we want to do in the city.

Will the Minister cite the science on which her approach has been based? In the context of tourism, I cannot understand the reasons for extending the burning seasons or the unwillingness to accept the arguments in regard to hedge cutting. Deputy Ó Cuív made a remark last night that if one looks out from his part of Cornamona, one will see the hedges are getting bigger, not smaller. I know the area pretty well, as the Deputy knows. All over Ireland, but particularly in the east, the big difference is that more and more fields are being amalgamated, with the hedges being grubbed out. Therefore, although there may be some bigger hedges, there is a massive reduction in the number of hedgerows on the island of Ireland. We have no data in terms of an actual count, which again is scientific data we should have for a proper discussion. I support the amendments. The Minister needs to think twice.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae I am glad to get the opportunity to talk again on the Bill because, as I see it, it is one of the most important Bills to come into this Chamber since I have come here. What this is about is the right of people in rural areas to have a safe road to their door, and that is all they are asking. The Members around me in the House have no briars prohibiting them from getting to their doors. I have no personal gripe with them but I have listened to enough rubbish now and I am taking no more of it. This Bill is about allowing people to go safely on narrow roads to their door and allowing their children and old people to walk and cycle without their eyes being taken out. All we are doing here is extending hedge cutting to allow people to cut in the month of August. If I had my way, the roadside hedges would be cut all the year round, full stop. We are entitled to that.

Those supporting these amendments have the Luas, trains, buses, taxis and everything else and they do not give one damn. They are taken to their door and they do not have to operate a car, pay tax or insurance or pay for anything else, but they want to stop the people in rural Ireland from having a safe passage to their door. I regret it but that is what they are trying to do.

Countrywide, I have nothing at all against birds or bees or any other thing-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Declan Breathnach): Information on Declan Breathnach Zoom on Declan Breathnach Deputy, will you please address the Bill, not the Deputies?

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae They were addressing me when they were looking this way. I can look around too, Acting Chairman, and I am entitled to do that. I will tell you one thing, Acting Chairman. I have no gripe with birds, bees or any other thing like that, and I would love to hear the curlew singing. However, they have the countryside besides the roadside - they have all the rest of the country. We are not saying when the hedges should be cut in the rest of the country.

In addition, we are asking that farmers be allowed to burn their scrubland because they are being fined by Europe if they do not have their ground clean. In that type of ground, if anyone in the House does not know it, people cannot operate a lawn-mower, a mowing machine or a forage harvester. The only way they can clean these places is by what I would call controlled burning. Farmers are being blamed for burning and gorse fires. I want to mention two sad stories from places where people did not get their payments for their Christmas dinner, in Tuosist to the west of Kenmare and in Awnaskirtaun near Rathmore. The people involved did not set the fires or put the fires there. They reported them to the fire brigade and gave every help they could to stop the fires but they are still without most of their payments, which is not right. All they are asking for is to be allowed to burn their ground for the month of March. It is allowed in the North of Ireland, which is the same country, until 15 April. What is so different about us here? It is ridiculous.

I heard Deputy Burton say there is something wrong with the way farmers are producing meat and that people are moving away from meat. Farmers were never more regulated and they produce their products to the highest standard. They have done everything they can to help the environment by building slatted tanks and slatted sheds, they are holding effluent and doing everything that is required and requested of them. They are doing their level best and it is very wrong to blame the farmer.

What I will fight for is the people of rural Ireland, who are entitled to a safe road to their door. There are deaths on our roads and I would like to eliminate as many of them as possible. We had the death of poor Denise Crowley before Christmas last year. We asked for a simple thing, to change the speed limit signs in Glenflesk village. Down the road at Rusheenbeg, where five people had been killed one after the other, we asked for a safety barrier but we did not get it and we have not got it yet, although several other elected representatives have asked for it besides me. What we are asking for now, and it has been asked for in our local authority for the last ten years or more, is that the roadside hedges are cut so people can come and go safely.

If people were interested in ground nesting birds, there are other things we could do. We could talk about vermin, mink, foxes, magpies, grey crows, badgers and rats. They are hurting the nests way more than what it is suggested this Bill will do in regard to cutting roadside hedges. That is a fact. They should go after them but they will not do that at all. They will only go after the poor people in rural Ireland and ensure their roads are made narrower, with trees falling down on them. We cannot touch a tree, a bush or a briar. They say: "Let them suffer on, let them manage any way they can, and do not allow the roadside hedges to be cut."

I am very critical of the Government for certain things it is not doing and will remain so. However, I support it 100% in what it is doing in the Bill. If I had my way, and I had an amendment down on this, I would ask that the hedges be cut all year round, but we will take this much for now because the people really need it to make the roads safe. Our roads are narrow whereas there is no problem up here. Here, they have motorways, with three lanes going down one side and three or maybe four coming up the other side, and the sides of those roads are being cut all year round - they are cut the whole time. Why make fish of one and something else of the other? It is just not fair.

I have no personal gripe about this but it will hurt rural Ireland if it is not addressed. I appeal to those putting forward the amendments to give over because it will create a divide eventually if they try to stop these roadside hedges being cut and stop burning for the month of March. These are minimal requirements and we would not fight so hard for them except people out there are waiting for this.

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