Bhí mé ag iarraidh a chur in iúl do mhuintir na tíre seo glacadh leis an mBille go fáilteach chun cabhrú leis an Aire agus le pé údarás a bhéas ann chun ainmhithe agus bláthanna atá sa tír seo nó a bhí agus atá ag imeacht go han-tapaidh ar fad a shábháil agus roinnt eile a chur ar ais ina n-áit dhúchais chun go mbeidh an tír i bhfad níos fearr ná mar atá sí anois.
Before reporting progress on this Bill on 22nd January, I had recorded my welcome for this measure which I regarded, however belatedly, as man's pact with nature. It is not a condescending or patronising pact of the strong or superior animal for his inferiors but one that arises from the awareness of man now that he must take notice of the fact that day by day, week by week and year by year the fauna and flora in this country have been disappearing at a rate that in some cases indicates ultimate extinction. Unless man takes notice of that fact and takes appropriate measures we will reach the stage where we will be much the poorer. I said that if the flora and fauna disappear it will not be possible in some cases to recover them.
I know that one case does not prove the rule but I indicated what I regarded as some of the problems existing in this respect. I pointed out my own personal experience, how some years ago in common with other landowners who were concerned with getting the best value out of the land we removed trees, hedgerows, ditches, dykes, shrubberies and copses from our land. This was done in order to get better value out of the land but in doing this we contributed to the elimination of wildlife. I indicated in the light of my own experience that were it not for the fact that operating in our area, operating under section 15 of the 1930 Act, gun clubs and game councils made representations to me in respect of the game that might be on my small bit of land and indicated to me their preparedness to protect whatever game might be there. Were it not for the efforts of those good people who are doing this in their spare time, voluntary organisations recognised by the Department, the occasional pheasant which is there at the moment would have disappeared. In those few areas there is what will constitute quite a problem for the Minister in the administration of the legislation we are here discussing.
The Minister indicates that there is provision for consultation with other agencies in respect of agriculture, drainage and other operations. I served for a while as a civil servant. Civil servants are no different from other people. Civil servants are mindful of a statutory obligation that may lie upon them but my experience is that they were not always very responsive to anything that was vague regarding their duties.
While the Minister may anticipate the preparedness of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Office of Public Works, the Department of Local Government or other State agencies to consult with him, I do not think that in the absence of a statutory requirement they will be prepared to yield to him in certain cases where he can demonstrate that their proposals are antagonistic to or in conflict with what he desires and what might be regarded as the spirit of the Wildlife Bill. In that I see a weakness in the measures here before us and on Committee Stage I hope to submit recommendations to the Minister which may help to provide a better modus operandi.
This might be regarded as a very big Bill. It is an amalgam of the 1930 Protection of Wild Birds Act and the Game Preservation Act of the same year. In assessing the benefit of the new proposal I have tried to extract the provisions already in existence from those now presented to us. I must admit to a certain disappointment. I refer especially to section 13, which refers to the establishment of a wildlife advisory council. The reference here is somewhat vague. My first reaction was that the Minister intended to proceed immediately to involve all the local agencies, the voluntary agencies to which I have referred, the gun clubs and the game councils, who would co-operate with him in this very important work and that the advisory council represented the acme of that.
I have studied the legislation and having regard to what is written down and it would seem that there is no guarantee in the Bill that the Minister will establish the wildlife advisory council. The explanatory note indicates that it provides for the establishment of the council. I should like to see in the Bill a date before which it must be established. I see in the council the very nub of the matter. The area of jurisdiction of the Bill extends over 17 million acres of land and water. Successful administration can be achieved only if as many as possible of the people of Ireland are involved.
In passing, may I suggest that in calmer and quieter times in Ireland, when the mention of a gun will not be as emotive or as fearful as it is now, this would be a matter in respect of which our area of jurisdiction might extend beyond that part of Ireland which at the moment is ours and we could show our co-operation by acknowledging the sportsmen of the Six Countries in the same way as we acknowledge the sportsmen of the Twenty-six Counties and provide in this legislation for an all-Ireland area as against a Twenty-six Counties area. I say that en passant.
We have noticed especially in the last ten years that there is a hunger among the people to be involved. There has been great emphasis and many references to community effort. This is one area where community effort is vital. It is one area where we must consult with people and organisations. If you want the co-operation in the attainment of any goal it is very sensible to seek co-operation. Indeed, such co-operation is beneficial to oneself. We hear a great deal about worker participation and we all want worker participation. This evolves from the realisation that the worker wants to be involved. He wants some recognition beyond merely standing beside a machine. That is understandable.
If we want the co-operation of the people at large we must involve them in preparation, in discussion and consultation in regard to the ultimate goals. Apart from that we must give them some power. This is where I am critical of the Bill. Section 13 refers to the Minister consulting with the council. The Minister talks about the freedom of the council to consult with him. It does not say at any point that there is any obligation on the Minister to do anything the council might request him to do. I do not think people are responsive to that kind of situation. I do not think you will get people's co-operation in that kind of situation. I enjoy membership of certain committees, councils and institutes. I would not serve on any committee unless I was happy in the knowledge that I as part of that committee had some power. People nowadays want recognition beyond merely consultative status.
In this connection I want to refer to section 31 of the 1930 Act which gives power to the Minister to appoint a consultative council. It does not say that he shall do so. It merely says he may do so. That is fairly significant because he never did appoint a consultative council. Will the same situation obtain under this? The Bill says the Minister shall appoint a council, but it does not say when. We will probably agree to the appointing of this council but it is not good government and it is not good administration to expect people to agree to the establishment of what can be regarded as something extremely vital to the whole operation of these provisions without there being some indication of the specific function and powers of that council.
I am concerned with what I would regard as involvement outside the bureaucratic system. I am relating my remarks now to what I know was achieved by voluntary organisations in this area and to the traditional antipathy that exists, however unfortunate, between the citizen and institutions of the State. Here I will admit unashamedly that 15 or 20 years ago when a gentleman approached me asking for my co-operation in respect of protecting game on my small piece of land the same co-operation would not have been forthcoming from me had I been approached by a representative of a Government Department. However sad that is it is nevertheless true and I think it reflects the attitude of many a landowner much bigger than I am.
I see in this measure less provision for the involvement of voluntary organisations than existed heretofore. What is required is of course an intensification of co-operation. Section 15 of the 1930 Act gave power to the Minister to recognise voluntary organisations. It gave to these organisations the right to go to a landowner and ask him to cede his shooting rights. I doubt if an owner would have ceded these rights to a Government Department or to the representative of a Government Department.
I am striving here to identify in this legislation the recognition which heretofore obtained in respect of voluntary organisations. Section 14 provides for the establishment of boards to administer any service and provide for future needs. I cannot see in that section any accommodation for the contribution existing at the moment from voluntary organisations. I cannot see it in respect of the advisory council since I do not know when it will be established and I do not know who will be on it. There is a general reference to the effect that there will be representatives of agriculture, horticulture, science, the environment, and game and sporting clubs. I am convinced from what I see here that this council will have no power in the wide world. I am convinced they will have no power beyond the right to discuss matters with the Minister if they or he so desire. In these enlightened times I do not believe that people who have respect for their views and their time will be happy serving on such a council. I do not propose at this stage to develop that point to any great extent but, in the clarification of that point, I see the success or failure of this legislation. All the other measures which refer to preservation of certain areas, the protection of certain species of flora and fauna are, as far as I am concerned, conditional on how we can involve the people. It is the people themselves who must act as conservators and protectors.
The Bill refers to certain offences. In one of the explanatory notes reference is made to members of the Garda. In some areas where the flora and fauna abound there are no Garda stations. They have been closed. How can we rely on the absent members of the Garda to carry out the measures in this Bill? In the area from Westport to Leenane, a distance of 20 miles, there is no Garda station although there is a certain amount of wild flora and fauna. Who will protect this, if offences are committed? Will the gardaí come from Westport or Leenane? I do not think so. In some rural stations there are only one or two gardaí. Surely it is not expected that the responsibilities which devolve from this legislation will fall on these overworked gardaí? Therefore, it is necessary that we should indicate whether we intend setting up special boards and will have certain personnel who will have special powers under this legislation. If we are willing the end—and this is to be commended—we must indicate the means. Otherwise, the legislation will not get the respect it deserves.
Perhaps I am quoting an extreme case but who will prosecute the unenlightened citizen who lights a fire within a mile of a forest? Surely it is not expected that a member of the Garda will be available for this work however desirable it might be? What will happen to a farmer who shoots an eagle because he assumes it is going to take his chickens? Under this legislation will he have the right to do that? Admittedly, I have given two extreme examples but I have mentioned them to show that we must have a clearer indication of how the legislation will be executed.
I cannot differentiate, as the Minister has done, between formal and informal education. For my part as an educationist, there is no such thing. Having said that, I am mindful that it has been the fashion over the years to say that there is a difference between formal and informal education. The Minister referred to the presentday concept of formal school education. We are accepting that in our schools today there is a greater need for instructing people in gerunds, trigonometry, higher and lower maths, than there is about giving them lessons on their environment and life. That is an approach which we must remove immediately. Formal education refers to the life of the child as much as it refers to these academic and technical matters which masquerade as education.
What should be the immediate concern of the Department of Lands in administering this scheme? In my view, they should consult with the Department of Education with a view to developing further the classes already being held and instruction already being given in environmental studies. It is described in the national school curriculum at the moment as nature studies. The child will be much more attracted to that than to difficult lessons about the tuiseal ginideach or the módh coinníollach. There will be no difficulty in getting his full sympathy. He will act as the agent. Perhaps the child will help the adult in the realisation of the need which exists for the honouring of this legislation.
The Minister will have some difficulty in convincing the farmer of the need and the advisability of postponing the achievement of what might be regarded as an immediate benefit, a short-term benefit. I am talking about the farmer living in the midst of wild life, the farmer who is fortunate enough to be living in an area where the lark sings in the still clear air. It will be difficult to convince him that he should forgo some immediate gain in the interests of retaining that way of life. Apart from other considerations, he is now in the position in which I and many other people on the eastern coast were some years ago. Without thinking about it we foolishily accepted that nature was infinite and that wild life, fauna and flora, were not finite. They are.
If that person were to talk to some of his counterparts on this side of the country where the pursuit of good husbandry has led to the exclusion of the thrush and the blackbird, the cuckoo and the corncrake, the wren, the finch and the linnet, the cowslip, the primrose, the dog daisy and the bluebell, he would realise that the price paid for that was not worth it. The financial gain has now disappeared. In normal times you can recover money. You cannot make a recovery with the same facility in the matter of fauna and flora. I appreciate that it will be difficult to sell that to any farmer.
I do not know whether ample provision is made here. We talk about asking people and consulting them. Where a farmer is prepared to co-operate, it would be worth the State's while to render to him appropriate compensation, financial compensation if that is what he requires or desires. In regard to the operations of the Office of Public Works in arterial drainage, it will be very difficult to convince them that at times there will be an obligation on them to forego what might be regarded as an exceptionally important operation even if, on balance, it can be shown that the short-term advantage would be outweighed by the long-term disadvantage.
The success of this Bill depends on the placing of restraints and the acceptance of compromise where it can be shown that what is proposed would be seriously prejudicial to what is embodied here and to what I am quite sure represents the aims and the objects of all the people in the country. I have highlighted the points I wanted to highlight. I should like to refer briefly to one or two other points which I hope the Minister will clarify when replying.
Yesterday we read indications of the anticipated establishment of oil refineries. Oil refineries are necessary and can be accommodated on certain parts of our coastline, but certainly not in Dublin. I should like the Minister to indicate what provision is being made—I know he cannot legislate for what happens on the high seas—for damage which could be done by oil spillages coming close to our coastline and into our river estuaries. We anticipate anti-pollution legislation but should we not have something in these proposals which might be regarded as complementary to that legislation?
Might I remind the House in passing of how certain species of flora and fauna have disappeared and of the references by Irish poets and writers down the years to birds and animals which at the time of writing were in Ireland but which have now disappeared? I would refer to things philosophical in Ireland as manifested in proverbs in the Irish language. We visualise a teacher in front of a class quoting the Irish proverb about the gobadán: "Ní féidir leis an ngobadán an dá thrá a fhreastail". Where is the gobadán today? "Céard a dhéanfadh mac an chait ach luch a mharú?" We have the cat and the luch, but there are hundreds of references in Irish proverbs to birds and animals which, though not extinct are now very rare and certainly unseen in the countryside.