Amendments Nos. 9 and 9a are being taken together.
Wildlife Bill, 1975: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
As those Members of the House who were members of the Special Committee know—the Minister may not because he was not in charge of this legislation in Special Committee—there is a history behind this matter of the deletion of what was section 16 from the Bill and the proposal now both by the Minister and ourselves to reinsert a new section. In the Minister's case, he is satisfied simply to put back into the Bill the very same section as the Committee deleted.
Let me say, first of all, that that is hardly a very democratic way to proceed. The House set up this Special Committee to deal with this legislation. The Committee went into the Bill in great detail and in their wisdom decided to delete section 16 as it stood. Our motives in deleting this section were clear. We did not regard the section as it stood as satisfactory. We felt it was an inadequate proposal, that it would not achieve the objective the farmers of the legislation had in mind. On that basis, we voted to delete it. I do not think it is good enough for the Minister to say he is not in the least influenced by what the Special Committee did, he is going to put the section back in again. That is a very flat-footed, undemocratic approach. The Minister should have acknowledged in some way the existence of the Special Committee and the consideration they gave the Bill. He should have also acknowledged the action of the Special Committee in deleting section 16 as being inadequate.
One would think that a person interested in our parliamentary procedures like the Minister, a person who wanted to see the special committee system work, would take account of what the Special Committee did and come back to the House with a revised and improved section 16. Instead, we have the proposal of the Minister to automatically, mechanically, reinsert the section which was deleted. We criticised the original section 16 because we did not believe it would be successful in achieving its objectives. The original section dealt with the situation where a person who had lands which would be suitable for development as a nature reserve would, in agreement with the Minister for Lands, have an order made establishing a nature reserve on those lands, a very desirable and commendable thing. Undoubtedly, there are many such properties where people would be very agreeable to have them transformed into nature reserves with the full blessing and approval of the Minister. We would all hope that that process would gather momentum and it would become a very valuable process in the establishment of nature reserves throughout the country, thereby making an important contribution to conservation and the preservation of wild life.
We questioned the Minister closely at the Special Committee about the advantages which would accrue to the owners of these lands as a result of their having these orders made. In fact, it transpired that there would be no real positive benefit accuring to the owners of the land; there would be nothing to tempt them to seek to have this procedure invoked. It would not be an attractive proposal from the point of view of the owner of private lands. It seemed that the only thing the Minister could put forward as an attraction was the fact that if these lands were transformed by ministerial order into private reserves the penalties which persons committing offences on the land would incur would be heavy. We suggested that that was not any great advantage at all, that it did not seem to us that any private citizen who had such suitable lands would be tempted to ask the Minister to make an order turning them into nature reserves simply because if he did so poachers would be more heavily penalised if they were caught. That is what is behind our proposal. We want to put in a new section 16 which will have some power. Simply, we are doing two things. We are amending subsection (5) of the Minister's section by adding the words after "situate":
and the Commissioners and every such planning authority shall have due regard in the performance of their functions to the existence of such order.
When an order is made by the Minister transforming one of these areas into a private nature reserve a copy of that order is sent to the planning authority and the Commissioners of Public Works but there the matter ends. The order can be ignored by those bodies. We want to ensure that when the order is received by the planning authority or by the Commissioners of Public Works they shall, from that moment onwards in carrying out their functions and duties and in discharging their obligations have regard to the existence of such an order. In other words, they will proceed to operate as a planning authority or as the Commissioners of Public Works in the full knowledge and having due regard to the fact that a private nature reserve has been established on these lands. We want them to take that into account in their planning and other activities.
We want to make a much more important additional provision. We want to add an additional subsection, subsection (6):
The Minister may with the consent of the Minister for Finance make available for the management, maintenance, and betterment of a nature reserve on any land in respect of which the Minister has made a recognition order under this section such service and assistance as he may deem appropriate".
The addition of that subsection would make section 16 worth while because then a number of things would happen. A public spirited person would come to the Minister for Lands and say he had so much land which he felt would be very suitable for the establishment of a nature reserve and if the Minister would agree he would make a recognition order and these private lands, would, by virtue of that order, be transformed into a nature reserve. The Minister would then send a copy of that order to the planning authority and the Commissioners of Public Works and that would ensure the future protection of that nature reserve because those bodies would be put on notice that they would have to have regard in their activities to the fact that this nature reserve existed on these lands. In addition, the Minister, and his Department, would be able to assist in a practical way with the establishment, maintenance, management and the betterment of the nature reserve.
The Minister has these resources at his disposal and the services of these experts which the private citizen would not have. We could have a situation where a recognition order would become an empty formula. In theory, certain lands would be transformed into a private reserve by the recognition order, but, in fact, nothing more would happen. That is the sort of situation we want to avoid. We want to ensure that where a nature reserve is, in theory, established that it will, in fact, become a real viable important nature reserve. The only way that can be achieved is by the Minister and his Department taking an active part in the management and running of the nature reserve. This seems to us a very sensible proposal. We have provided that this can only be done with the consent of the Minister for Finance. That is a necessary proviso because in so far as expenditure of public moneys would be involved the Minister for Finance would have to agree.
There would not be any loss to the Exchequer in what we propose. It would not really cost the taxpayers anything. From what I know of the Minister's officers and officials in this area they could almost certainly run the nature reserves in such a way that expenditure involved out of the public purse could be reimbursed. Even if it were not, the Minister would simply be supplying to these reserves services which already exist. I would not think it would be necessary for him to create any new machinery or appoint more staff. I imagine what would be involved principally would be advice. There might be some practical things to be done which would involve actual expenditure but, generally, the service the Minister could provide would be provided by the existing structure of the wildlife section of his Department. They are very dedicated people with great interest in their work and I could readily see them, provided they had the statutory backing we propose, undertaking the management and betterment of private nature reserves without any significant extension of Departmental expenditure.
I strongly recommend these two additions to the existing section to the Minister. If he adopts them, he will have a worth-while mechanism at his disposal to enable him to create nature reserves on private property and he will be able to ensure that they become a reality since he is supplying all the necessary assistance and advice necessary to make them worth-while propositions. These are the main considerations behind our amendments. I think the Minister is being a little lax in the discharge of his parliamentary obligations in simply proposing to reinsert section 16 as it was, the exact section that the Committee deleted. It makes a farce of the Committee proceedings if he does that. The Minister could extricate himself from that undermocratic position by adopting our new section 16 instead of his own. If he is worried about what subsection (6) might involve by way of expenditure of public moneys, he always has the fallback that it can only be done by consent of the Minister for Finance and he can be sure the Minister will not tolerate excessive expenditure under the section.
We think that the procedure that has been thought up is good and could become a very important and valuable process in this whole matter. Many areas could come within the ambit of section 16 and many people would be glad to avail of it but we want to be sure that it is worth while doing it, that it is attractive to them. Quite a number of people would be prepared to ask the Minister to make a requisition order in respect of their land if they could be certain that he was in a position to provide this help and those services for them after the order had been made.
I strongly recommend our section 16 because we think it would create a useful process which would be beneficial to the whole area of conservation of wildlife if he were to insert in the legislation the provisions we propose in these amendments.
At the Special Committee the Minister's predecessor made I think the case for the spirit of the amendments which we offer. He said, as reported on page 71 of the Wildlife Bill, 1975, Special Committee:
...Some private individuals and organisations make a very worth-while contribution to wildlife conservation by devoting their lands as nature reserves—sometimes at considerable financial cost....
That is what he said in respect of the reserves which are referred to in our amendments in what was the original section 16 of this legislation. We are concerned that the people to whom the Minister referred should get proper recognition, that their voluntary efforts and the contribution they are making to conservation—which we hope would have the effect of encouraging others to do likewise—would at least get the recognition and protection we have envisaged in our amendments and which we think is more manifest in our amendments, as compared with, as Deputy Haughey said, the throwback we are getting from the Minister in this regard.
On Committee Stage when the Minister was asked to indicate the purpose of section 16 he seemed very much at a loss and could only repeat, as reported on page 71 of the Wildlife Bill, 1975, Special Committee that:
There will be much stiffer penalties for offences committed on such lands....
That is the measure of the respect and regard the Minister shows in this legislation for the wonderful efforts by private landowners in regard to conservation. We think that is not enough. What the Minister indicated makes very little of the wonderful contribution often made, as he said himself, at considerable financial cost. We hope our suggested new section would give recognition to what is being done and also give muscle to the legislation.
I do not want to cover ground already covered adequately by Deputy Haughey as is his custom in regard to anything to which he applies himself but I refer again to subsection (2) which states:
Before making a recognition order the Minister shall consult the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Minister for Transport and Power, the Commissioners and any planning authority within whose area the land to which the proposed order relates, or any part of such land is situate.
Again, I ask the simple question, a question which is often asked by the child very succinctly and briefly, what is it in aid of? What contribution is being made to conservation? What encouragement or exortation to preserve or conserve is in section 16 (2)? There is nothing. People familiar with legislation, especially planning authorities, know there is nothing to be gained by showing something to a planning authority. Unless provision is made in the appropriate legislation, it gets no regard.
Subsection (2) substantiates my earlier comments on the superficiality of this legislation. It cannot be taken as an indication of any real concern on our part to introduce the legislation to give teeth and muscle to legislation dealing with conservation. I realise that the Minister and his advisers hope this legislation will pass expeditiously. In that regard I ask them to bear with us while we make our comments on this legislation which is less than perfect.
This discussion hinges around the point whether things can be done as they are or whether the amendment should be accepted. Everything that could be done under the amendment can be done under the general provisions of section 11. It is as simple as that. My predecessor, Deputy T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan), at column 72 of the Wildlife Bill Special Committee, D 22, No. 7 stated, and this puts the matter in its proper perspective:
With all respect, we will have to agree to differ on that. I accept Deputy Haughey's bona fides and the point put forward by him, but I think it is not necessary to make the amendment he proposes. I do not think it would be in the interests or the spirit of the Bill to do it.
I have carefully considered the representations of the Opposition and there is no desire to put democracy outside the door, but I am quite clear, having appraised myself of their desires, that the power is there in any case under section 11. Therefore, I see no reason to amend this Bill at this point and I cannot accept the other amendment.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 16, to insert ", to the Board" after "Commissioners" in line 24.
I move amendment No. 10b:
In page 16, after line 28, to add the following:
"(16) The Minister may with the consent of the Minister for Finance provide to the owner or occupier of land in respect of which a designation order under this section is in operation such advice and assistance as he deems necessary for the protection of the fauna concerned".
Years ago I was attached to an atheletic club, the Clonliffe Harriers. The motif I carried on my chest then helps me when dealing with these matters and I think of nil desperandum. This is why I speak on this amendment.
The Deputy is welcome to speak on it.
There is not much comfort in speaking when one has the idea from the very beginning that one is not likely to meet with much success. The Minister has come here with understandable and plausible reasons for not being able to accept our amendment.
This amendment refers to the new section 17 and provides that:
The Minister may with the consent of the Minister for Finance provide to the owner or occupier of land in respect of which a designation order under this section is in operation, such advice and assistance as he deems necessary for the protection of the fauna concerned.
Section 17 as it stands does not provide the assistance to which the amendment refers. In our view, without such a provision the section is weaker. The case made in respect of section 16 and the spirit and the approach of the Minister and his Department to all persons, agencies and institutions involved, and with whom he hopes to co-operate in conservation and preservation, is embodied in this amendment. The Minister will not get in this or any other area co-operation or respect for legislation unless he indicates that he appreciates the efforts being made by private landowners or voluntary organisations. The section does not refer to voluntary organisations but to contributions which we anticipate may be made by occupiers of land. As it stands, the section does not allow the Minister the freedom I suggest he would like to have. It does not allow him to co-operate in the fashion I have indicated and it is in that spirit that we offer him this amendment. Our purpose is to have the Bill finalised in a form which will be as near perfection as possible and we venture to say our amendments would make a contribution in that direction.
I have no doubt Deputy Tunney's efforts are for good and that what is between him and my predecessor and between him and myself is but little. I appreciate the purpose of the amendment but as the Bill stands it is unnecessary. The point is fully covered in section 11 (2) (a) which states:
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, the Minister may in particular do all or any of the following:
(a) give assistance or advice to any person on any matter affecting wildlife.
In that provision the Minister can do precisely what the Deputy is asking for.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 16, to insert ", the Board" after "The Commissioners" in line 56.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 17, to insert "to the Board and" before "to any" in line 36.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 18, line 32, to insert "as amended by section 40 (b) of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1976," before "in respect".
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 20, to substitute the following for lines 21 to 24:
"and nothing in this section shall make unlawful anything which is duly done pursuant to a statute (other than this Act) or statutory instrument, which is permitted to be done under such a statute or instrument or which is done pursuant to and in accordance with a licence or other permission granted or issued pursuant to such a statute or instrument".
With the Ceann Comhairle's permission I propose to discuss amendments Nos. 14, 16 and 21 together as they are inter-related.
The basic amendment here is amendment No. 21 affecting section 32. Arising out of the Committee debate on the section I find it necessary to move this amendment in order to exempt from the prohibition in subsection (1) acts which are lawful under other statutes. A case in point is where section 14 of the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, allows a landowner to lay poison on his own land provided he posts notices, notifies the Garda and securely stakes the poison to the soil.
It would be unreasonable to deprive a landowner of this relief against marauding animals, in defence of his crops or stock and it was never the intention that the section should do so. Amendments Nos. 14 and 16 are purely drafting amendments which the parliamentary draftsman has put forward for consistency with the wording of amendment No. 21.
I move amendment No. 15
In page 20, to insert "protected" before "wild bird" in line 28.
This is no more than a drafting amendment to make clear that the wild birds in question in subsection (6) are protected wild birds.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 23, to substitute the following lines for lines 7 to 10:
"(iv) anything which is duly done pursuant to a statute (other than this Act) or statutory instrument, which is permitted to be done under such a statute or instrument or which is done pursuant to and in accordance with a licence or other permission granted or issued pursuant to such a statute or".
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 24, line 15, to delete ", if he thinks fit,".
The inclusion of the words "if he thinks fit" in subsection (1) was questioned during the Committee debate. My opinion at the time was that the section would be just as effective without these words. However, in order to remove a drafting inconsistency with subsections (2) and (3), I am moving this amendment to delete the words in question.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 26, to substitute the following for lines 26 to 29:
"the person to whom it is granted, with the firearm to which the certificate relates—
(a) to hunt and kill pursuant to any order under section 23 of this Act which for the time being is in force any protected wild bird,
(b) to hunt and kill pursuant to and in accordance with any order under section 24 of this Act which is so in force any hare."
With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I propose to discuss amendments Nos. 18 and 19 together as they are directly related.
During the Committee debate, some misgivings were expressed about the interpretation of the endorsement mentioned in subsection (8). I have since re-examined the wording of the endorsement and I can see that, as it stands, it could be open to an interpretation other than that which was intended.
The purpose of the endorsement— which would appear on a resident's firearm certificate in respect of a shotgun—is to transform the firearm certificate into a licence to hunt, first of all game birds which are the subject of an open season order under section 23, subject to the terms of that order, and secondly, hares which are the subject of an open season order under section 24, subject to the terms of that order. In other words, the endorsed certificate would entitle the resident sportsman to shoot specified game birds during the open season only and hares in the open season only, provided the open season order under section 24 permitted the shooting of hares as distinct from other methods of hunting, for example, beagling, harrying or coursing. I am satisfied that the proposed amendments of subsections (5) and (8) clarify the intention of the endorsement.
Is the Minister happy that we should be giving permission at all to shoot hares?
Personally, only in one area have I ever shot a hare. The tradition in my part of the country is that hares are not shot, but in other parts of the country hares are shot as game. My personal preferences do not arise here.
Hares can do enormous damage.
They have been regarded as game since 1930.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 26, to substitute the following for lines 49 to 53:
" `This certificate, for so long as it is in force, authorises the person to whom it is granted, with the firearm to which it relates—
(a) to hunt and kill pursuant to any order under section 23 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, which is for the time being in force any protected wild bird within the meaning of that Act,
(b) to hunt and kill pursuant to and in accordance with any order under section 24 of the said Act which is so in force any hare.' ".
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 27, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:
30.—(1) It shall not be lawful for a person, without the permission of the Minister, to hunt fauna on or over foreshore belonging to the State or on or over land belonging to the State and which is either covered by any inland waters or comprised in the lakeshore accretion from any lake.
(2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall commit a trespass and may, if the Minister thinks fit, be sued by the Minister for trespass in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(3) Nothing in this section shall operate to prejudice any legal proceedings which may be instituted apart from this section."
These provisions were opposed during Committee Stage debate on the basis that they were too sweeping against the traditional foreshore wildfowler or that they should be confined to protected species.
I would stress that this is a very desirable section in the context of wildlife conservation. There is no intention whatsoever of banning the traditional sportsman who shoots over foreshore, but it is very evident that some control is essential to stop malpractices by many non-sportsmen who shoot at anything that flies on the foreshore and very often with the wrong type of weapon. This type of shooting is reprehensible when one hears of various species of wild birds being found dead and wounded on the foreshore.
There is little point in confining the section to protected species as very often the unsporting person who indulges in this type of indiscriminate shooting could not identify one bird from another. In any case we must also consider the disturbance factor.
As I have said, the genuine traditional sportsman will have nothing to worry about. Permission will be readily forthcoming for him, but the omission of these provisions from the Act would leave a glaring loophole in our conservation laws. I therefore strongly urge this amendment.
Is the Minister happy that the enforcement of the penalty in respect of foreshore offences is possible? I see great difficulty, as the Minister will appreciate. I say this to agitate the mind of the Minister. What will happen in the case of, say, somebody out in a boat who decides to abuse this section from the boat close to and around the foreshore? I would like an assurance from the Minister that sufficient research has been done on this and that he is happy that the provisions are enforceable. I can visualise an amount of difficulty and perhaps the legislation would be mocked at.
I am not at all happy that these provisions are totally enforceable in every part of the country at every moment in time. However, on the foreshore there are a number of species of birds and there have been occasions when with the wrong weapons people have just shot everything in sight. This is not what we want. We want also to be clear in our minds that we are able to protect a certain species. The only foreshore shooting I have ever done in my life was that of golden plover which was done at low water and this was I think at a place where you would not take many golden plover, but there are other places around the country where you will take a lot. We want to have the right to protect these birds wherever they are. It will be difficult and we have to concentrate on the more vulnerable spots, but in happier times when there is no subversion it will be possible for the Garda Síochána to watch the foreshore at the relevant times of the day. I have said that it is at low tide that you shoot golden plover. That is all right, but if the Garda know that is so then a patrol car could go down to the beach in a very short time and could observe what was happening there.
What we want is that the Minister will not interfere with traditional foreshore rights.
The Deputy may take my word on it.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 29, to substitute the following for line 8:
"wild mammal which is not a protected wild animal,
and nothing in the said subsection (1) shall make unlawful anything which is duly done pursuant to a statute (other than this Act) or statutory instrument, which is permitted to be done under such a statute or instrument or which is done pursuant to and in accordance with a licence or other permission granted or issued pursuant to such a statute or instrument or anything caused by or which results from, or is consequent upon or the effect of any other act or thing which is lawfully done".
Amendment No. 21 has been dealt with with amendment No. 14.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 47, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:
59.—(1) Subject to subsections (3), (4) and (7) of this section, the Minister may make regulations permitting the public generally or any particular class or section of the public or the members of any body of persons which is of a particular class or description or the members of a particular body of persons, to have access to and use in accordance with the regulations—
(a) foreshore which is the property of the State,
(b) land (in this section subsequently referred to as a refuge) to which a designation order applies,
(c) any land (including land covered by inland waters) to which an establishment order applies and which is land owned by the State but in which the Minister has not a joint or several interest (which land is so referred to as a State land nature reserve),
(d) land other than foreshore mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection, which forms the seabed under part of the territorial seas of the State and to which an establishment order applies (which land is so referred to as a seabed nature reserve).
(2) Regulations under this section may apply to all foreshore which is the property of the State, every refuge, State land nature reserve and seabed nature reserve, or to any such foreshore or any refuge, State land nature reserve or seabed nature reserve which is of a particular class or description, or to particular such foreshore or a particular refuge, State land nature reserve or seabed nature reserve.
(3) Regulations under this section which apply to foreshore shall regulate access to or use of such foreshore to such extent as the Minister considers necessary for the conservation of wildlife and such regulations shall be made by him only after consultation with the Minister for Transport and Power, and in addition to the foregoing, where the regulations relate to foreshore other than foreshore which is held by the Minister, they shall be made only after consultation with—
(a) in case such foreshore is held by the Commissioners, the Commissioners,
(b) in any other case, the Minister of State by whom the foreshore is held.
(4) Regulations under this section which apply to a refuge shall regulate access to or use of the refuge to such extent as is necessary to enable the relevant designation order to have full effect.
(5) (a) Subject to subsection (7) of this section and paragraph (b) of this subsection, the Minister may by regulations permit and regulate access to and use by the public generally of land to which either a recognition order applies or an agreement under section 17 of this Act relates.
(b) Regulations shall be made by the Minister under this subsection only on the request and with the agreement of—
(i) in case the regulations relate to land to which a recognition order applies, the owner of such land,
(ii) in case the regulations relate to land to which an agreement under the said section 17 relates, all the parties to the agreement (other than the Minister, where the Minister is such a party).
(6) Subject to subsection (7) of this section, the Minister may, at the request and with the agreement of a board established pursuant to section 14 of this Act, by regulations permit and regulate the access to and use by the public generally of any land held by that board.
(7) Regulations made—
(a) under subsection (5) or subsection (6) of this section,
(b) under subsection (1) of this section which regulate access to foreshore or to a refuge (not being a refuge held by the Minister) to which, immediately before the commencement of this section, the public generally had access,
shall be made by the Minister only after consultation with any planning authority any part of whose area the relevant foreshore adjoins or within whose area the relevant land, or any part thereof, is situate.
(8) (a) Regulations under this section which have effect in relation to land held by the State shall, if the State ceases to hold the land to which they apply, thereupon cease to have effect in relation to the land.
(b) Regulations under this section which have effect in relation to land to which a designation order or a recognition order, as the case may be, for the time being applies shall, if the order is revoked, thereupon cease to have effect in relation to the land.
(c) Regulations made pursuant to subsection (6) of this section shall cease to have effect if and when the board at whose request they were made is dissolved or if it otherwise ceases to hold the land in respect of which the regulations were made.
(9) Where the Minister makes regulations under this section, he shall, as soon as may be after such making, cause a copy of the regulations to be sent to the Board and to any planning authority—
(a) in case the regulations affect foreshore, any part of whose area that foreshore adjoins,
(b) in any other case, within whose area the refuge or other land concerned, or any part thereof, is situate.
(10) Where the Minister decides to permit, whether by means of bye-laws, rules, regulations or otherwise, the public generally to have access, subject to specified conditions, for educational or leisure purposes to land held by the Minister, he shall, as soon as may be, give to the Board and to any planning authority in whose area the land or any part thereof, is situate particulars of his decision and in case the Minister varies or revokes such a decision he shall likewise inform the Board and such planning authority of the variation or revocation.
(11) In case the Minister permits, subject to specified conditions and whether by means of bye-laws, rules, regulations or otherwise, access for educational or leisure purposes to land held by him, any person who fails to comply, whether by act or omission, with any such condition shall be guilty of an offence."
I have dealt with amendment No. 22. This was section 59 of the yellow copy of the Bill. The matter was raised in the Seanad and we want to put it back in.
Is the Minister making no change?
I think on Committee Stage we did refer to difficulties which the Minister would have in enforcing this legislation and we asked the Minister at the time, Deputy T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan), to indicate whether or not he visualised the situation where he would be giving permission to people who traditionally had access to the foreshore, that from now on he would be the licensing agent for local people who hitherto had access to the foreshore. Does this section give such people such permission?
A question was raised in the debate and is now raised by Deputy Tunney whether persons who, say, through seaweed, had the right of way across the foreshore, would now be foregoing that right? That is not so at all. The object of this section is to enable the Minister to regulate public access through or use of the foreshore nature reserve, whether on State or private lands, and the refuges for fauna, but only to such an extent as is necessary to conserve our wildlife values, and in the case of private reserves only at the request and with the consent of the order. The Deputy may take it that persons who walk across the foreshore for their own convenience or take seaweed from the foreshore or land articles from boats on the foreshore, provided they were not in conflict with common law, will continue to have the same rights as they always had.
On the question of common law I was rather surprised that the Minister said when we questioned him on this point in respect of people specifically in the Connemara area who went to the foreshore to draw seaweed, that legally speaking they were not entitled to do that. I took that as an indication from him that perhaps he was going to prohibit the exercise of that traditional right in future. If he does I cannot see him meeting with success or that there would be much co-operation from the people of maritime areas.
I think we are at odds. What my predecessor said is correct in that most of our foreshore is owned by the State but practice and precedents have come in and persons have taken the seaweed for use as fertiliser and so on. This has been accepted and there is no change at all in this nor does this legislation cut across that situation. All those people will be fully entitled to go down with their tractors or their donkeys with panniers on each side or a cart and horse and take what they always took before. This legislation had nothing to do with anything except with game and fauna. The Deputy may take it that my predecessor was correct but he and Deputy Tunney found themselves at odds. On checking out we found that nothing is changed.
Had it been the Minister himself there would have been no odds in it at all. He gave the other impression. Maybe it was not his intention.
It was not his intention.
Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are related and may be taken together.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 53, to delete line 59 and in page 54 to delete lines 1 to 10 and substitute the following:
"(d) inspect and, if he thinks fit, take copies of any entry in any book, record or other document produced pursuant to a requirement made under this subsection, and if—
(i) such member or authorised person has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been or is being committed under this Act with or in relation to anything found in the course of the search, or
(ii) a document so found is a record or other document which the member or person has reason to believe may be required as evidence in proceedings for an offence under this Act,".
These amendments are purely drafting amendments to correct a misleading printing layout in each case. In section 69 (3) all of the words from "and if" in page 54, line 2, down to the end of the subsection are intended to refer to the things in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) and not just to those in paragraph (d), as the present layout might imply.
Similarly, in section 70 (2) all of the words from "and if" in page 55, line 31 are intended to refer back to paragraphs (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) and not just to paragraph (iv). In other words, it is merely a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 55, to delete lines 28 to 41 and substitute the following:
"(iv) inspect and, if he thinks fit, take copies of any entry in any book, record or other document produced in pursuance of a requirement made pursuant to the warrant,
and if the member or authorised person so named has reasonable grounds for suspecting that either,
(A) an offence has been or is being committed under this Act with or in relation to anything found in the course of the search, or
(B) a document so found is a record or other document which the member or authorised person has reason to believe may be required as evidence in proceedings for an offence under this Act,".
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 60, lines 51 and 52, to substitute the following for Article 15:
"15. The quorum for a meeting of the Board shall be such as is specified in an order made under section 14 of this Act and which relates to the Board and is for the time being in force."
In the course of Committee Stage debate, Deputy Brennan argued that there was a certain ambiguity about the wording of article 15 of this Schedule. I promised the Deputy that I would be bringing in an amendment on the lines of that now proposed by me.
I would like to express my gratitude for the welcome this Bill has received from both sides of the House and, in particular, to record my personal appreciation of the exacting way in which the provisions of this long and complex measure were examined and discussed by the Special Committee. I will be the first to acknowledge that the amendments which arose from these discussions have been most valuable.
This is a very important volume of legislation on wildlife—the first for over 45 years—and it updates several old laws going back, in some instances, as far as penal times. Apart from establishing a new national charter for the conservation and development of our wildlife resources, it will provide a badly needed statutory framework for this country's inevitable involvement in and contributions to the wildlife scene at international level by for example, facilitating the ratification of two major international conventions which have already come into force, namely, the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
Let us just summarise the main advances being made in the Bill in the field of wildlife conservation. It identifies and settles on one Minister, the Minister for Lands, responsibility for the conservation of wildlife—wild birds, wild animals and wild plants. It enables the Minister to initiate and engage in research and surveys related to wildlife and to promote public knowledge of wildlife values.
It provides for the setting up of a fully representative Wildlife Advisory Council to advise the Minister. It provides for the first time statutory protection for all wild birds with the exception of a few pest species. It provides for the first time statutory protection for our less common wild animals and marine mammals. It provides the means to protect our rare wild plant life.
For the first time the essential habitats of protected fauna and flora can be afforded statutory protection through the establishment of nature reserves, including marine reserves, and the designation of refuges for fauna.
There will be a noticeable strengthening of our hunting laws:
Only qualified persons with lawful access to sporting rights will be entitled to hunt game during statutory open seasons;
Individual bag limits can be imposed;
Open seasons can be suspended in the interests of conservation of species;
Hunting licences will be introduced for the first time for both resident sportsmen and visitors to the State;
Hunting on State foreshore will be subject to the permission of the Minister;
Hunting rights over a three-mile limit of our territorial seas will be vested in the State;
Hunting at night will be prohibited;
Hunting of protected wild birds and animals from mechanically propelled vehicles, vessels or aircraft will be banned;
Unsuitable firearms and indiscriminate mechanical and electrical devices will not be permitted in hunting, nor will certain traps, snares, nets, decoys, lures and dazzling devices be allowed.
The Bill also provides that the ringing and tagging of wild birds and wild animals will be subject to licence. There will be new restrictions on the burning of growing vegetation near woods, nature reserves and refuges. The person who deliberately or through gross negligence causes such a fire will, in addition to facing a conviction and fine, face a claim for the resulting damage or loss.
The practice of falconry can be regulated under licence if the occasion demands. It will be an offence to trespass on another person's land in pursuit of any wild bird or wild animal whether it is a protected species or not.
The possession, sale and purchase of protected fauna will be severely restricted. The import and export of wild fauna, alive or dead, and of flora will be subject to licence.
There will be new powers to acquire land in the interests of wildlife conservation. Other State and semi-State authorities will be obliged to liaise with the Minister for Lands in the interests of safeguarding valuable habitats of wildlife.
That then is a list of the main advances being made by this Bill. By any standards I suggest that it is a formidable and impressive list. It is my earnest hope, that on its enactment, the overall philosophy of the Bill will be favourably received and its principles and provisions actively supported by the general public. In the final analysis, it is in their interests that a measure of this kind must be seen to work, so that the conservation of our irreplaceable wildlife heritage for the benefit of this and future generations may be assured.
My colleague, Deputy Tunney, who is in charge of this legislation on behalf of the Opposition, has agreed to give the Minister this Bill this evening. That is a generous and sensible decision on the part of Deputy Tunney because we would like to spend a lot more time on this Bill. There are aspects of it that still cause us some disquiet. I should very much like to have the opportunity of dealing with section 68 regarding the onus of proof because I do not think that is a good section. There are a couple of other sections, section 57 which deals with the creation of rights of way and section 56 which deals with the right to hunt on or over territorial seas of estates vested in the State. There are a number of those matters which I should have liked to have had a last attempt at changing or persuading the Minister to change.
This is a situation where we cannot let the best be the enemy of the good. It is important that we get this legislation on the Statute Book. Deputy Tunney and I are concerned at the state the Government are in at the moment and that anything can happen, and if we let the Dáil adjourn before Christmas without this legislation it might never get on to the Statute Book. It is better, all things considered, to have the Bill enacted rather than to run the risk of having it lost, perhaps for a long time.
This is very important legislation. I do not think many Deputies are as concerned about it as they should be. I do not think Deputies generally realise the importance of what we are trying to do in this legislation. I hope it will usher in a new era in regard to the environment as a whole as well as the conservation of wildlife. It is very important that the Minister for Lands now has this power and has the function—we tried to make it a duty—of conserving our wildlife. I believe this legislation will have very far reaching effects and implications and that it goes away outside the mere confines of conservation of wildlife. It will have an enormous impact on our future as a community.
I fully support the Minister. I hope he will direct his efforts to try to get more and more people, especially our young people, interested in the countryside, the environment and the conservation of wildlife. We will have to concentrate on this area to an increasing extent in the future. I hope that this legislation will only represent a starting point in that whole area.
The Minister, who is a countryman, is interested in sporting activities and rural life. I hope he will take a very special interest in this area and treat it as a very important part of his ministerial functions. He is very fortunate in having the type of people in the Department that he has, men and women who are dedicated to this work. They have the right approach and the right outlook. They seek to achieve their objectives by persuading and advising and by helping people. I should like to express my gratitude for the assistance I have received from them from time to time. I hope to receive a great deal more in the future.
It would be wrong to see this legislation as just a piece of technical legislation dealing with wildlife only. It should be seen to have far wider implications than that. I do not want to go into that area but I hope that the enactment of this legislation and its operation by the Department in the same way as they carried out their functions up to now and the same sort of spirit will have an enormously beneficial effect throughout the community. The wildlife we have today is not ours to dispose of as we see fit. It was passed on to us and it is up to us in our time to treat it as a heritage and to do what we can to preserve it, to strengthen it and to hand it on to the next generation perhaps better than when it was transmitted to us.
There has been a steady, unfortunate, regrettable deterioration in this whole area of wildlife. This legislation will give us an opportunity to make a significant new start and arrest the decline that has been taking place. It will give the Minister's office the powers and scope that they need. I welcome the legislation and would like to spend more time on it to improve it in various ways, but we have not the time, and it is better to have the legislation with the defects in it than not to have it at all. I commend the Minister, his predecessor and his Department on at last being successful in having this legislation put on the Statute Book. As far as we are concerned the Minister's predecessor was a bit too restrictive in his approach, but on the other hand he met us on a few points, and for that we express our appreciation. I would like to commend the Department and particularly the Minister's advisers on very comprehensive and important legislation which is now going on to our Statute Book.
I will open by commenting on the speed with which the business has been completed. I use a phrase which we hear more often on sad occasions—it came suddenly in the end. In relation to this legislation I have said before, and I repeat, that I looked upon it as an extremely important piece of legislation. One has not to search very far to find reasons for it, but certainly anybody who moves through our countryside today, with even one eye open would have to realise that in respect of fauna and flora we have begun to move to the point where there is serious depletion and an amount of devastation. It is sad too, when one thinks of the need there is now to explain to one's children that not so long ago there was nothing strange about hearing a lark, that Shelley's skylark did exist, and that an chuach and an traonach were really birds that came to, that existed, and could be heard in Ireland, and that the wildlife which gave such an attraction and a fascination to the countryside some years ago was a reality. Now in many cases it is only a memory. Irish life is and will be all the poorer for that. In so far as this legislation attempted remedying that position it had to be accorded quite a welcome.
I was very disappointed in the approaches manifested by the Government side especially on Committee Stage. The Committee consisted of six members of the Opposition and six members of the Government. It is sad that in all those committee meetings, this legislation did not have the benefit of more than half a dozen very short succinct and irrelevant contributions by Members representing the Government on that Committee. Apart from anything else that is an offence to democracy. What is more disturbing is that in this House last week a Minister, who shares responsibility with the holder of the office of Minister for Lands in respect of the preservation of wildlife, chided this House, and Members of this side of the House especially, because we dared hold up legislation which he thought was vital to the life of this country. Under the legislation which the Minister for Labour regarded was vital to the life of this country it is envisaged that any employer who contemplates rendering any employee unemployed or unemployable may have his house visited and his books examined by authorised officers of that Minister's Department.
The Deputy is straying from the Bill.
I am showing the attitude of certain Ministers and backbenchers in the Government towards this legislation and I am quoting as an indication, what was regarded by a Minister as being more important than this legislation.
The Deputy is too skilled in the techniques of the House not to know that he is departing from the last Stage of the Bill.
In this House, compliments and credits of that nature serve to coax the speaker from the paths on which he finds himself, although it need not always be an erring path. It is very appropriate to defend this legislation against that which was purported by another Minister as being more important than legislation which allows officers of his Department to visit and inspect books and the homes of employers. I do not intend pursuing it any further than that. It can be said that the legislation is somewhat cumbersome. It is certainly copious, and one must entertain certain doubts about its enforcibility. The legislation is not specific enough and various agencies including the agency of the Garda may be tempted to shy away from helping to enforce the legislation. There is too much dependence in the legislation on exhortation. Exhortation has a place in the life of the country but in a matter that is so vital I would prefer to see more specific, clearly cut provisions.
Those of us who have an interest in wildlife and its preservation must ask other Departments and other institutions to co-operate with us in matters which are not specific to this legislation, but with regard to insecticides and pesticides. It would be foolish to assume that having enacted this legislation we can retire from the scene happy in the thought that what we hope for will be provided. I do not think that will be the case. It would be very unwise of us and would be a poor compliment to the legislation if we assume our work is now complete. On the contrary, our work has just started. I hope that by implementing the provisions of this legislation it will leave us and our countryside all the richer.
The Bill which is considered by virtue of Article 20.2.2º of the Constitution as a Bill initiated in the Dáil is to be sent to the Seanad.
The Chair has said this Bill was initiated in the Dáil?
It has been amended by the Dáil and is now regarded as a Bill initiated in the Dáil.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 15th December, 1976.