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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 Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] As is very often the case with important and controversial issues in this country, there is a perfunctory public consultation and not a proper one. In many cases, public consultation is a box-ticking exercise where the proposed measure was a fait accompli from the beginning, that is, the Government decided what it wanted to do and it was going to do it. That is not the way to do business and it is unnecessarily divisive.

  I would say to our colleagues from the rural constituencies that I agree with them that farmers are under pressure. Various regulations can put farmers under serious pressure and we should listen to their concerns. However, our colleagues should not respond by attacking people from the city as if they know nothing and have no right to speak on these matters. We all share this country and planet and we all depend on the wildlife and the biodiversity being maintained.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy must conclude.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The Government has made a mistake by driving this Bill through without a proper consultation process.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins There has been a reasonable level of debate on this Bill in committee and in the Dáil. Some Members consider there has not been enough debate on it but I do not know how long more they want to talk about it. There will be an extended burning season. Hopefully, Muintir na Tire will work on plans with the Garda and the farmers and there will be properly controlled burning in the future. I hope that will be the successful outcome of the extended burning season.

A previous speaker said that we had held up the passage of the road traffic Bill. I spoke for 29 minutes in nine months on that issue, which works out at three minutes a month. That did not hold up the passage of the Bill. We started with nothing when we began to debate that Bill and now we have secured €400,000 for rural transport and another 40 or 50 new driver instructors. We have gained. Hopefully, if we can spend another few months on it, we might get more for rural Ireland.

I have been calling for many years for each local authority to carry out a survey of roadside trees, which have caused a number of deaths but, unfortunately, that is not happening. We need to address that issue. When there is a storm trees pose a hazard and can cause a major accident.

Quite a number of urban Deputies visit my constituency during the summer months because of the beauty of the landscape. We do not want our community turned into Jurassic Park. We are trying to continue to live there in a normal manner. There has been a lack of understanding about this issue. If one was in my area for a while, one would see people out with streamers cutting back verges leading out onto roadways every night of the week. That is crazy. It is very important for people to have the possibility to extend the period for the cutting of roadside verges. I guarantee Members that if a referendum was held on that, it would have a landslide victory in rural Ireland. It is a common sense issue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I listened with interest to the contributions and I do not want an urban-rural divide in any shape or form. We need to mend those fences rather than have such division. As was said, we live on a small island and we have to live, work and manage together. I declare my interest as a small business person. It do not believe it is a crime. Deputy Healy-Rae, Deputy Michael Collins and myself employ people, generate income, pay our insurance premiums, taxes and everything else. I believe we are an asset to the economy. I have been in business since 1982. No one has a monopoly on this issue. As I said, the gun, shooting and fishing clubs do tremendous work to nurture our wildlife, as well as the vast majority of farmers. I condemn anyone who sets a hill alight in March, April or whenever, especially when the weather is very dry, and this year has been exceptionally dry, because of the threat of the fire spreading and the danger that poses to the fire services. I pay tribute to the fire personnel and the mountain rescue people for the work they are doing. The environment must be protected but the safety of lives must be paramount with respect to wildlife. It is important to achieve a balance in that regard but we must be able to cut back the hedges for safety and allow tourists to visit the areas in their hired car. If they hire a car in Dublin they are required to pay a deposit and if there is a scratch on the car when they return it, they will lose their deposit. That is why the roads are closed. Tá siad dúnta. We must be mindful of that in making our areas welcoming and achieving a balance in protecting the flora, fauna and wildlife. We must look at the bigger picture. Set aside was prevalent for decades and it did untold damage.

I stand by the comments I made in the debate. The Minister decided not to reply to them. She did not have to but I believe I am right that the people who are concerned about the birds and the bees care little for human beings.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae A reference was made to my plant hire company. It is a small company and I am proud of it. We employ people, pay our taxes and pay our suppliers as best we can and the taxes we pay help to pay every Member in this House. We make no apologies for employing people and trying to do our best, which is what we believe we are doing.

Deputy Burton referenced the fact that there was no science and no database. All that is needed here is common sense. The roadside hedges have to be cut to allow people come and go safely on narrow roads.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Agreed.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Then what is the hullabaloo about?

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Everybody agrees on that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We cannot have that debate now.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae We are saying there is no problem inside the ditches. The birds and the bees can have the rest of the countryside and all of us will do our best to help them.

I appeal to the Minister to ensure this Bill is passed speedily because many narrow roads cannot be travelled. Three people were killed in a storm that hit the country, and mothers were taking their children to school. That happened in Kerry and it is happening everywhere. Branches and briars should not overhang roads. We need this Bill to be passed in the Houses as effectively and speedily as possible.

I appeal to the Deputies in that regard because it is very important. We do not begrudge the Deputies what they have which is unobstructed access to their houses. We have no problem whatsoever with that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae We want the same for the people we represent in the rural counties like Kerry.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Last night and today, I thought we had disposed of all the amendments to section 7, therefore, I will address the amendments before the House now, all of which address section 8. We should be clear about the purpose of section 8. It is bringing the Wildlife Act in line with what is already in the Roads Act 1993, no more and no less. Deputy Eamon Ryan specifically mentioned his amendment No. 27. If we were to insert amendment No. 27 in the Bill as opposed to what the Minister has done, we would only be transposing part of the Roads Act 1993. The problem then would be that other parts of the 1993 Act would be in conflict with the Wildlife Act. If a farmer or an occupier took a reasonable step to ensure that a tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation on the land is not a hazard or a potential hazard to persons by cutting it in the closed months, no more and no less - we have to talk about the facts of what the law states and not alter the things that have nothing to do with the cold words in front of us - they would be on the right side of the law under the Roads Act 1993 but on the wrong side of the law with the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

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