Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has described the weekend’s devastating fires at Killarney National Park as nothing short of ecocide and called for tougher penalties for those responsible.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for Climate Action and Biodiversity, said:

“It is heartbreaking to witness the needless destruction of our natural environment, be it intentional or through reckless negligence. This is the second time this year I have had to raise this issue after a fire raged out of control in Wicklow National Park last month.

“It’s a sad fact that many of these fires are often started illegally and the Government needs to adopt a carrot and stick approach by introducing heavier penalties for those found responsible, while incentivising land users to protect the environment.

“It has been illegal to burn land for clearance purposes since March 1. At present, basic farm payments can be docked for 12 months from those found guilty of breaking the law. However, I do not believe this is enough of a deterrent and that withholding payments for 10 years – or until such a time that the land has recovered – would be a more appropriate sanction.

“Illegal fires are a cyclical experience that cause untold environmental, human and economic damage all over Ireland, not to mention putting firefighters, air corps crew and other emergency workers at risk each time. The fires are devastating for wildlife, have an impact on water quality and cause air pollution through increased carbon emissions.

“Fundamentally, the problem comes down to the fact that there are no management plans in place for our national parks or Special Areas of Conservation that put biodiversity protection as a central goal. We need more land designated for protection purposes as this will lead to better conservation of environmentally vulnerable areas.”

April 26, 2021

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