Wildlife Bill, 1975: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Cavan): This Bill is designed to provide an up-to-date and effective statutory framework for wildlife conservation in this country. It is a comprehensive and, indeed, a complex measure but I trust that the detailed explanatory memorandum which I have made available will have given Senators a clearer appreciation of the objectives of the Bill and a better understanding of the many proposals for their attainment.

Before dealing in detail with the objectives of the Bill, I should say that there has been in recent years persistent pressure by various interested bodies for the introduction of up-to-date legislation for the protection and conservation of wildlife. When it is realised that a period of 45 years has elapsed since the enactment of any major measure concerning wild fauna, one cannot but have sympathy with that pressure and also with the criticism which was voiced at the delay in finalising the Bill.

It is true that the Bill has had a lengthy period of gestation but I do hope that the wide-ranging scope of the measure now before the House— and its implications for many other Government Departments besides my own—will go some way towards indicating why it was necessary in this instance to devote more than the normal preparatory period to the formulation of these legislative proposals. In this connection I should like to pay tribute to the work done by my predecessors in the earlier stages of preparation of the Bill.

As Senators will, no doubt, be aware, nature conservation is a subject which is nowadays receiving increasing attention from the various international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, whose mandate includes the protection and management of the environment. In the environmental programmes of inter-governmental agencies like the United Nations, the EEC and the Council of Europe, nature conservation is given a prominent place and the activities of these organisations in this sphere are of considerable interest to Ireland as a member State.

My Department have for some years been associated with these programmes. The Department are also affiliated to various non-governmental agencies such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Hunting Council, the International Waterfowl Research Bureau, and so on, which specialise in different aspects of wildlife conservation and hunting. Participation in all of these organisations inevitably gives rise to an increasing involvement by my Department in their activities and it is imperative that a solid statutory basis be provided if we are to fulfil satisfactorily our international responsibilities in this important sphere.

Apart altogether from any question of international obligations, however, the need for effective legislative machinery in the field of wildlife conservation is greatest when looked at from the stand-point of what is required at national level. While it is true that technological developments and increased urbanisation have already produced some detrimental effects on our heritage of wild fauna and flora, it is not yet by any means too late to embark on a positive, energetic conservation programme to safeguard that heritage for future generations.

Indeed, an on-going programme has been carried out with a modicum of success for some years, involving not only my Department but also a number of other State agencies. The centralisation in my Department of overall responsibility for wildlife conservation, as envisaged under this Bill, and the wide-ranging statutory powers being provided will enable that programme to be accelerated and intensified under the aegis of a single authority with a view to providing the necessary protection and control in this particular sector of the natural environment.

My Department, through their extensive ownership of land and sporting rights both by the Land Commission and the Forestry Division, have had inevitably some degree of involvement in the wildlife scene for many years. However, it was not until 1959, when responsibility for administration of the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1930, was transferred to them from the Department of Justice, that the Department began to assume a positive role in the sphere of game development and wildlife conservation generally. In the intervening years the Department have been engaged to an increasing extent in nature conservation, with emphasis on the game sector.

For a number of years this programme was carried out by a small unit operating within the framework of the Land Commission. In 1971, as a result of the impetus given to the nature conservation by European Conservation Year, 1970, and in anticipation of improved legislation, this unit was merged with the Forestry Division which has since come to be known as the Forest and Wildlife Service. This service, with its very substantial and widely-dispersed landholding throughout the country and its experienced complement of personnel trained in the natural sciences, is now the main State agency for wildlife conservation. However its activities have largely been based on the two 1930 Acts to which I have referred. While these Acts represented enlightened forward thinking at that early stage of the development of the State, their limitations for present-day needs are understandable.

Nevertheless, despite these limitations, it has been possible to achieve some success. The game development programme operated through a country-wide network of regional game councils and the establishment of a national network of bird sanctuaries— including, of course, the internationally important Wexford wildfowl reserve—are practical examples. However, it is abundantly clear that if worthwhile progress is to be made, from either the national or international standpoints, in an area where so much still remains to be done, an expanded, modern and more effective statutory mechanism is urgently necessary. This is what the Bill now before the House aims to provide.

Against that rather capsuled historical background I will now set out more fully the principal aims of the Bill and the effects of its individual provisions. The proposals have, in fact, six major objectives: these are clearly defined in the explanatory memorandum already circulated and I think I cannot do better than to repeat them here. They are as follows:

1. To provide an adequate statutory basis for wildlife—fauna and flora— conservation and to define the role of the Minister for Lands in that sphere.

2. To provide effective machinery for the conservation of areas having specific wildlife values.

3. To make appropriate provision for the better protection of wild fauna and flora.

4. To provide an up-to-date framework for (a) development and protection of our game resources (b) regulation of the exploitation of these resources and (c) regulation of trafficking in fauna, especially game species, and flora.

5. To facilitate a unification of existing services within the Department of Lands dealing with forestry, conservation and allied amenity, matters.

6. To provide a firm statutory backing to modern concepts of the uses to which State forest lands may be applied and to provide an improved land acquisition procedure in this context.

To show how it is proposed to achieve these objectives I shall now deal with the various sections of the Bill, partly to elaborate on the explanation already given in the explanatory memorandum and partly to indi cate the thinking behind some of the proposals.

The group of sections, viz. sections 1 to 10, inclusive, in Part I of the Bill, are largely of a routine nature and do not call for detailed comment. Perhaps the most interesting provisions in this group are sections 2 and 10. The former provides a very comprehensive set of definitions for purposes of the Bill; the latter deals with the repeal of existing legislation as listed in the First Schedule. The repeals include the two 1930 Acts to which I have already referred and also a number of old statutes which by present-day concepts fall into the ancient category. Thus when the Bill becomes law the main corpus of legislation relating to wildlife conservation will be embodied in a single modern Act.

In Chapter I of Part II the real substance of the proposals in the Bill begins to emerge. Section II defines, for the first time, the basic role of the Minister for Lands in the whole sphere of wildlife consevation and sets out the general powers envisaged to enable him to exercise that role more effectively. That a genuine need exists for such comprehensive statutory powers with a view to furthering the interests of wildlife conservation will scarcely be denied at this juncture. The powers in question embrace such aspects of wildlife conservation as providing assistance and advice, managing—by agreement—lands not in State ownership, entering into agreements, participating in various schemes, providing grants and loans, promoting conservation projects, engaging in research and educational aspects of wildlife conservation, and so on. It is scarcely necessary for me to deal in any detail with these clearly defined powers but I think a few comments of a general nature will not be amiss at this stage.

It is true, as I have said already, that a certain degree of progress in wildlife conservation has already been achieved despite the severe handicap of inadequate legislation. That this has been possible is due in no small way to the valuable co-operation and assistance given by a number of voluntary organisations whose interests centre around specific aspects of wildlife. I am thinking, in particular, of bodies such as the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, the regional game councils and their national association, the Irish Deer Society and others.

I pay tribute to all these groups for their past interests, encouragement and support and I would like to assure them that the powers given under the Bill, and under section 11, in particular, far from diminishing the need for a continuation of such co-operation in the future, will leave my Department in a much stronger position than heretofore to work in harmony with them towards the attainment of mutual objectives.

I referred briefly to educational aspects of wildlife conservation. It is perhaps as well to make it clear that my concern in this sphere is not so much with education in the formal sense, with which my Department are not directly concerned, but rather with the broader question of encouraging a greater degree of public understanding and appreciation of nature conservation generally, and of wildlife values in particular.

The success of a Bill of this kind will inevitably depend largely on the volume of public sympathy and support which it can generate and it will be the policy of my Department to continue to use every means of publicity at their disposal—for example, through lectures, films, handouts, exhibits and so on—to promote this ideal. I may say that the Forest and Wildlife Service has, in fact, already achieved some success on this front. Moreover the tremendous public response in an allied sphere—the opening up of the State forests with their multiple facilities for public recreation and education—clearly indicates that there is a vast reservoir of goodwill for a sound wildlife conservation programme.

My final general comment at this juncture concerns the special contribution which the farming community can make towards wildlife conservation. This springs from their ownership of, and association with, a sizeable part of the habitat which is vital to the survival of so much of our wildlife. Implementation of this Bill will inevitably impose constraints on many different interests but I think Senators will agree that every effort has been made to avoid unduly restricting bona fide agricultural operations.

I have no doubt that those engaged in farming will do everything they can to ensure that wildlife continues to survive but I would appeal to them especially on two counts—first, to keep the habitat requirements of wildlife in mind when planning their agricultural programmes and, secondly, to do nothing which would interfere with rare or threatened species.

After those few general remarks I shall now move on to section 12. The purpose of this section is to place an obligation on various public bodies— for example, Government Departments, local authorities, Commissioners of Public Works and certain semi-State bodies—to consult the Minister for Lands before deciding on any action or undertaking any project which might have a detrimental effect on nature reserves or refuges for fauna which will be established under sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Bill. These areas will be chosen for their special wildlife values and it will be very important to see that such sites are subsequently safeguarded to the utmost extent practicable. The system of consultation provided for in section 12 will help to ensure this.

However, as the restriction may prove to be unduly severe in certain circumstances, it is proposed to allow a few exemptions—for example, where a particular activity has to be undertaken as an emergency measure or where it would unnecessarily cut across the operation of certain aspects of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. The activities of the Commissioners of Public Works under the Arterial Drainage Acts are also excluded but there are separate specific provisions to cater for these in section 43, which I will mention later.

Section 13 provides for the establishment of a Wildlife Advisory Council. I attach particular importance to this proposal. It goes without saying that any broadly-based programme of wildlife conservation involves, apart from the Forest and Wildlife Service, a wide diversity of interests—scientific, agricultural, cultural, sporting and so on —each of which can make a special and worthwhile contribution towards the formulation of policy and the settlement of objectives. I visualise the council as providing an effective forum for a widely-representative group whose combined talents and expertise will ensure a steady flow of advice and guidance for my Department's on-going conservation programme. Section 13 is so drafted as to permit a very broad range of participation; and, in appointing the members of the council, it will be my aim to strike the best possible balance between those who will represent the various relevant scientific disciplines and those for whose selection practical experience at grassroots level will be the principal criterion.

Section 14 is an enabling measure to permit, should such a course at any time be necessary, the setting up of boards to administer any service which the Minister will be empowered to provide after the Bill becomes law. As of now the establishment of any such board is not envisaged, but the practical scope of wildlife conservation and game development is sufficiently far-reaching to warrant the inclusion of this enabling power to meet possible future needs. And, having catered for the contingency of setting up such boards, it is of course important to spell out in some detail the various provisions which would apply as regards their constitution, practical operation, and so on. For convenience these are grouped together to form the Second Schedule to the Bill.

Perhaps the most notable defect in existing legislation was the virtual absence of any statutory measures for conservation of wildlife habitat, as distinct from mere protection of species. One of the fundamental aims of the Bill is to remedy this deficiency and we have already seen, in section 12, one small step in this direction.

Chapter II, which I shall go on to deal with now, is directly concerned with this vital sector.

Sections 15 and 16 can be conveniently taken together. Section 15 relates to the establishment of nature reserves on lands owned by the Minister for Lands or by the State; section 16 is concerned with the recognition of similar areas in private ownership. In the selection of these sites the overriding consideration will be their scientific values as habitats of fauna or flora or a combination of such features. My Department have already made some tentative progress on this front in anticipation of the enactment of this legislation.

As regards flora, some representative samples of native sessile oak woodlands have been set aside for dedication as nature reserves. In regard to fauna, a wildfowl reserve of international significance has been established on lands jointly owned by my Department and the Irish Wildbird Conservancy at the North Slob, Wexford, where the primary concern is for the Greenland White-fronted goose. The passage of the Bill will enable these and other nature reserves to be formally established.

I am very glad to say that enthusiasm and concern for setting aside suitable properties as nature reserves has not been allowed to rest entirely with the State. It is heartening to know that some private individuals and organisations have already shown very commendable enterprise in dedicating lands, invariably at considerable personal expense, to the cause of wildlife conservation. This is a development to be welcomed wholeheartedly. But a mere welcome is scarcely sufficient and it is only fitting that under section 16 of the Bill it will be possible to go a step further by giving this sort of initiative a well-deserved formal recognition.

Sections 15 and 16, with which I have just dealt, provide a mechanism for safeguarding wildlife habitats where scientific interest is the dominant consideration. However there are some places throughout the country which might not qualify, either because of the ownership situation or the particular wildlife value concerned, for the rather special status of nature reserve but which are nonetheless particularly worthy of positive protective measures. It is proposed to protect habitats of this kind by designating them as refuges for fauna under section 17 of the Bill.

I realise of course that a proposal of this kind could have far-reaching implications for the landowners concerned. For that reason, an elaborate procedure is contemplated as a preliminary to the making of a designation order. The first requirement entails consultation with other State agencies concerned and this will be followed by publication of a notice of intention to make the designation order. This notice must indicate the species of fauna proposed to be protected, the lands involved and, perhaps most important of all, the protective measures to be adopted.

Interested parties will have ample opportunity to object to the making of the order and all such objections will be fully considered by the Minister before the matter is decided. Parties aggrieved by the making of a designation order will be entitled to compensation, depending on whether their claims stem from an interest in the lands or from some other source, but compensation will be assessed on the basis of diminution of value, loss or disadvantage arising from the protective measures set out in the order.

I should perhaps mention here that the importance attached to both nature reserves and refuges is such that offences under the Bill committed on these sites will carry special penalties. I shall refer further to this particular point when I come to deal with the penalty provisions in section 74.

The final section in Chapter II regarding habitat protection is section 18. This relates to the drawing up of management agreements intended to restrict the user of land by owners or occupiers in such a way as will benefit the interests of wildlife conservation. Such agreements, if they were to run only for the lifetime of the current owners or occupiers, would not always achieve the desired results but subsection (4) is so designed as to enable agreements to be drawn up in such a way as to bind successors in title, thereby ensuring permanence for the commitment of the land to the cause of wildlife conservation.

The effect of these agreements would be that, in consideration of agreed monetary compensation—payable either as a lump sum or by way of annual payments—land would be managed in such a way as not to impair its inherent wildlife values. Such an arrangement could mean that a person would, for example, undertake not to drain the land or build on it or alter its physical characteristics in some other way. It goes without saying that the type of landowner likely to be interested in entering into agreements of this kind will largely be people who are already keenly interested in wildlife conservation but even if it were to result in safeguarding only a few vital habitats, the inclusion in the Bill of section 18 would be well justified.

Whereas Chapter II of Part I of the Bill, which I have just dealt with, was concerned with various habitat conservation measures, Chapter III deals with the general protection of fauna and flora. As there are a number of sections in this chapter relating to fauna and only one directly concerned with flora, perhaps I should begin by dealing with the flora item, section 21.

The basic intention here is to provide an enabling power whereby species of flora in need of protection can be made the subject of protection orders by the Minister, either throughout the State or in specific areas, following which it will be an offence to interfere with the flora or their habitats save under licence from the Minister. The primary objective is to provide a measure of statutory protection for flora at national level which will augment certain conservation powers already vested in planning authorities under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. This does not reflect any unnecessary overlapping. In practice the Minister for Lands will be concerned with rare species of flora, and their habitats, from the national viewpoint and planning authorities will continue to exercise their existing powers in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

The importance of flora in the overall context of wildlife conservation frequently tends to be overshadowed by the more popular concern for fauna. The combined effects of the dual functions to which I have just referred will be to strengthen substantially the present inadequate statutory position in so far as flora is concerned.

I will now turn to the provisions in the Bill for protection of fauna, starting with wild birds. In this connection I think it will be found helpful to read sections 19 and 22 together.

Section 19 is the blanket provision under which it is proposed to protect all wild birds, including their nests and eggs, except the pest species listed in the Third Schedule; but under subsection (2) of section 22 it will be possible to add to or take from the species mentioned in the Third Schedule as circumstances require. Section 22 then goes on, in subsections (4) and (5), to make it an offence to hunt, capture or kill protected wild birds, with suitable exemptions for agricultural, forestry, fishery and certain other activities and for the humane treatment of injured wild birds.

Subsection (6) may call for some degree of explanation. Under section 42, with which I will be dealing more fully in due course, there are provisions to meet situations where damage is being caused by fauna to agricultural and other interests. These provisions include a procedure for the granting of permission by the Minister to a person whose property is being damaged to capture or kill the offending animal or bird. However it may sometimes be necessary for a landowner to act promptly—on the grounds that remedial action is urgently necessary—without having obtained such permission and in doing so he may find that he has to kill a protected wild bird. The effect of subsection (6) of section 22 will be to exonerate such person from an offence except where the bird in question is one of the limited number of rare or threatened species listed in the First Part of the Fourth Schedule to the Bill.

Sections 20 and 23 contain, in relation to the protection of specific wild animals, provisions broadly corresponding to those which apply to wild birds in sections 19 and 22. Here again it will be advantageous to read the two sections together. The intention is to protect all those species of wild animals which are listed in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill, and in this connection it will be noted that deer and otters are among the species which are to be given protection for the first time. The list of species in the Fifth Schedule may, under subsection (2) of section 23, be augmented or reduced as circumstances warrant.

It will be an offence to destroy the breeding place of protected wild animals or, save under licence, to hunt such animals; but there are appropriate exemptions under subsection (7) in favour of a variety of activities including agriculture, fishing, forestry and so on. Moreover, in line with the procedure already mentioned in the case of rare or threatened species of wild birds, there is a special provision in subsection (8) whereby landowners, and so forth, who find it a matter of urgent necessity to kill protected wild animals in order to protect their agricultural or other relevant interests, may do so without breaking the law provided that the animals in question do not come within the very short list of rare or threatened species consisting of the pine marten, red deer, seals and whales set out in Part II of the Fourth Schedule.

Sections 24 and 25 provide for the declaration of open seasons for certain protected wild birds and wild animals, that is, those which fall into the game category. There is provision for the imposition of bag limits, where necessary, in the interests of conservation of game stocks. The game species concerned will, by and large, be those which have traditionally been available to shooting men during the open seasons under the Game Preservation Act, 1930, with the addition of deer which, as I said, are now being protected for the first time and whose status will henceforth be upgraded from the vermin category to that of game.

The first part of section 26 is a corollary to the protection of deer and otters and provides for the licensing by the Minister of the hunting of these species with appropriate packs of hounds. The remainder of this section deals with the licensing of hunting of hares with beagles and harriers—traditional but not very extensive activities in this country—and the licensing of hare coursing, in accordance with approved rules of the Irish Coursing Club, outside the open season. I may say that my primary concern, where the hunting of deer, otters and hares is concerned, will be for the conservation of the species and I am satisfied that the powers sought under section 26 will provide the necessary degree of control.

We are very fortunate in this country that winter conditions are rarely of such severity as to pose a serious threat to wildlife populations. Occasionally, however—as happened, for example, in the winter of 1962-63 —we do experience a period of exceptionally severe weather which can take an inordinately heavy toll of our wild fauna, especially wild birds. Not only does this result in a serious decimation of our wildlife but it also subjects animals and birds to considerable hardship and suffering from cold and hunger in the process.

The extent to which a situation of this kind can be counteracted is unfortunately limited. However, section 27 is an attempt, in so far as game species are concerned, to prevent a serious situation from becoming worse. To allow game shooting to continue in such circumstances would manifestly be contrary to all canons of good sporting behaviour and, as appeals for voluntary restraint may not always elicit the desired total response, a statutory curtailment of open seasons is envisaged whenever weather conditions either at home or abroad are such as to present a definite threat to game stocks. Incidentally this provision will augment the power already available to the Minister for Justice to prohibit the use or carriage of firearms in similar circumstances and the exercise of both controls should effectively eliminate any abuse in this sector.

I shall now pass on to Chapter IV of Part II of the Bill. This chapter contains a wide variety of restrictions aimed at protecting wildlife. While most of these provisions will not require a great deal of elaboration on my part, sections 28 and 29, which are complementary, include innovations which will concern everybody who is interested in game shooting, be they our own resident sportsmen or visitors. Notwithstanding the information given in the explanatory memorandum, I feel that these particular proposals warrant some special comment.

Basically the objective in these two sections is to regulate the hunting of game species with firearms by (a) defining the categories of persons who may lawfully engage in this activity and (b) setting up a revised licensing system for such persons. The overall approach is based on the premise that there can be no such thing as "free shooting" and that anyone who hunts game on land without being the owner—or having the permission of the owner—of the shooting rights over that land is, to put it quite bluntly, guilty of poaching. Regrettably this is a practice which is all too prevalent.

For the past 15 years or so my Department have been directly involved, through the provision of financial support and technical advice, in a national programme of game development carried out by a network of regional game councils. The extent to which the joint effort put into this programme by the State and voluntary organisations can become frustrated by poaching is not difficult to understand and some preventive action is obviously desirable.

This is the general background to section 28, which seeks to define the various categories of persons who will in future be eligible for licences to hunt game, the main criterion for eligibility being ownership of game rights or authorisation by such owners. I think the range of qualified persons, as set out in section 28, will be found to embrace everybody who can genuinely claim to have an entitlement to a hunting licence.

The licensing system itself is provided for in section 29 and introduces a novel concept for this country, namely, a licence to hunt game with firearms, or, as it is better known, a game licence as distinct from a firearm certificate. Thus it is proposed to differentiate between the actual possession of a firearm and its use for shooting game.

Under section 29 anybody wishing to shoot game in this country in future must apply for a game licence and, in doing so, he will be required to make a declaration of his qualification within the ambit of section 28. The visiting sportsman who intends to shoot game species, whether wild birds or wild animals, must first seek and obtain a licence from the Minister for Lands for the purpose. The resident sportsman who wishes to shoot game animals other than hares must follow a similar procedure but where his interest is confined to wild birds and hares he will, as at present, be able to get his firearm certificate through the Garda Síochána, but with this difference: it will carry an endorsement which will have the effect of deeming the certificate to be a licence to hunt game birds and hares, that is, those species which have traditionally been regarded as game species. This procedure will in the case of the resident sportsman avoid the need to make separate applications for the firearms certificate and the game licence and will make for ease of administration.

The foregoing disposes of the basic objective of section 29 but there are a few other elements in it which I should mention.

Under subsection (7) a person aggrieved by the refusal of the Minister to grant or renew a game licence under subsections (1) and (2) will have an opportunity to appeal to the District Court.

Subsection (4) is aimed at making game licences, whether issued by the Minister or by the Garda, coterminous and this should go far towards eliminating a longstanding grievance by organised resident sportsmen. Put very simply, the basis of their complaint is that the firearm certificates granted to them annually expire on 31st July each year, irrespective of the date of issue, thus confining them to one season's shooting; whereas firearm certificates issued to no-residents run for 12 months from the date of issue, thereby making it possible for them to shoot through part of two open seasons. The proposed uniformity in subsection (4) will bring about a desirable adjustment.

Incidentally, reference to the subject of game shooting by visitors prompts me to mention that in the recent past my Department and Bord Fáilte have been jointly endeavouring to bring about a measure of control in this sector. The primary objective is the elimination of the objectionable, indiscriminate shooting which is carried on here from time to time by visiting parties—sometimes, indeed, with a degree of connivance on the part of certain local interests. As an interim measure arrangements were made with effect from 1st April last whereby, in agreement with the Department of Justice, all firearm certificates relating to visitors' shotguns are to be issued by my Department as agent of the Minister for Justice. Under the new procedure such certificates will be issued only to those applicants who can show that they have made advance bona fide arrangements for their shooting holiday in Ireland. The provisions of sections 28 and 29 of the Bill reflect, in so far as visiting game shooters are concerned, a further strengthening of this control.

I have now covered the main points in section 29 and I do not think I need dwell further on it at this stage. However, if Senators require further clarification of any of its provisions I shall be happy to furnish it.

Section 30 is designed to give the Minister control over hunting on foreshore owned by the State or on inland lakes and lakeshore accretions which vest in the State. Sometimes there is a doubt as to whether or not inland lakes are vested in the State but under a later provision of the Bill—section 57 —machinery is being provided which will help to remove that doubt in some instances. Some areas of foreshore and certain inland waters are frequently subjected to intense and indiscriminate shooting pressure, with serious detrimental effects in terms of disturbance of wildlife and damage to valuable habitats. The regulation of shooting in such areas is regarded as an important aspect of the wildlife conservation programme and, in order to bring this about, only persons who have obtained permission from the Minister will in future be entitled to hunt over such places without infringing the Act.

Section 31 is concerned with aviculture or, to be more precise, a particular aspect of this practice, namely, the breeding in captivity of certain wild perching birds. The business of dealing in exotic species will not be affected by this section, though a later provision relating to the import of fauna may do so to some extent. The intention is to prevent the sale of species which occur in the wild state in Ireland or adjacent countries—apart from the pest species listed in the Third Schedule—unless the birds have been fitted with a close ring at the fledgling stage to show that they were bred in captivity. This will ensure that indigenous adult wild birds, which could well include specimens of rare species, cannot be captured and sold as birds bred and reared in captivity. However I think the genuine aviculturist will have nothing to fear from the provisions of the section.

The actual process of bird ringing and the capture of wild birds for that purpose are dealth with in section 32. Bird ringing is a very important feature of ornithological research and something which should be entrusted to suitably-qualified people. My Department are already engaged in a programme—limited as yet—to provide selected personnel with the requisite skills and qualifications as bird ringers. Some voluntary organisations—for example, the Irish Wildbird Conservancy—also runs similar courses for their members. Under section 32 only persons who obtain a licence from the Minister will be authorised to capture and ring wild birds or to posses the nets used for capturing birds with a view to ringing them.

The next group of sections, that is, sections 33 to 38, inclusive, provide a number of restrictions and controls, mainly technical in content, which will assist wildlife conservation by prescribing the adoption of proper hunting practices. For the most part however the proposals merely represent an up-dating of corresponding provisions in legislation which is being superseded by the present measure. As the various proposals are largely self-explanatory I do not propose to dwell on them at any great length, but I will explain briefly their salient features.

Under section 33, the use of firearms and so forth which cause excessive and inhumane wounding and killing of wild fauna is restricted. The section will also enable the type and calibre of firearms and ammunition most suitable for shooting different protected species to be prescribed by way of regulations. The necessity for this is perhaps best illustrated in the case of deer—now to become a protected species—where the use of unsuitable weapons and ammunition and failure to effect a clean kill invariably results in a slow and painful death for the animal. It is a matter for regret that such incidents, perpetrated by unscrupulous people, have been all too common in the past.

Section 34 is intended to restrict the use of traps, snares, nets and such substances as birdlime and poisoned or stupefying baits in the process capturing and killing wild fauna. There are a number of exemptions from the scope of the section to cater for bona fide needs and confined to the use of traps or other devices which will, under regulations, be approved for the purpose. I should draw attention to the fact that, with the repeal of section 8 of the Protection of Animals Act, 1965, the use of the gin trap for taking otters, a species heretofore unprotected, will no longer be lawful.

Section 35 will impose restrictions on the use of scarecrows, decoys and call of wild birds and mammals as hunting aids. There is an exemption to meet the needs of research and certain other approved activities provided that these are carried out in accordance with a licence. Some traditional practices in relation to the hunting of wildfowl are also exempted.

The use of power boats and other mechanically-propelled vehicles in connection with game shooting—birds or animals—is a highly undesirable practice which gives rise to undue disturbance and harassment of fauna and must be curbed. This is taken care of in section 36 with a special exception being made for scientific research when carried out under licence from the Minister.

Sections 37 and 38 are controls over hunting by night. Much of the damage caused to wildlife, especially in the process of poaching, takes place at night and involves the use of lamps, dazzling devices and so on to facilitate capturing or killing wild birds or wild animals. This is another undesirable practice which calls for attention. The need becomes all the greater in view of the protection being given to deer. There may be justification for permitting a limited degree of hunting by night in specific instances but these will for the most part be tolerated only under licence from the Minister.

Section 39 replaces section 61 of the Forestry Act, 1946, under which the burning of vegetation within a mile of State forestry plantations was controlled. A similar type of control is required in the context of nature reserves and refuges for fauna and, rather than have two separate—and, perhaps, complementary—statutory controls, the relevant Forestry Act provision is being repealed and replaced by the composite section 39, which covers plantations, reserves and refuges.

Section 40 is designed to restrict the destruction of vegetation during the breeding and nesting season. Existing statutory restrictions applicable only to game birds would not be adequate for purposes of the Bill. Moreover, it is considered necessary to apply the restrictions over a somewhat longer period of the year. There is, in subsection (2), a liberal list of exemptions from the effects of the section and these should amply ensure that normal agricultural and other essential operations will not be hampered by the proposed restrictions.

This brings me to the end of Chapter IV which contains various proposals of a restrictive nature, the bulk of which are directly oriented towards the conservation and protection of wildlife. The final chapter in Part II of the Bill consists of a group of miscellaneous provisions which, while not being quite so specifically oriented, are nonetheless individually important.

In this country the ancient art of falconry is not practised on such a scale as warrants any immediate control. However, with the sport apparently gaining in popularity here, it is desirable that a comprehensive Bill such as this Bill should contain some appropriate provision for any later needs. This is achieved in section 41, which is an enabling power to permit falconry and matters associated with the sport to be regulated should the necessity arise.

Section 42 is an important provision to meet situations where damage is being done by protected wild birds and wild animals to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and so forth. I had occasion already, in the context of sections 22 and 23, to refer to situations of this kind. Whilst deer are the most likely source of trouble in this area, they are not necessarily the only potential culprits. Section 42, as well as providing that the Minister may take direct action to deal with marauding animals or birds on the property of an aggrieved person, sets out a procedure whereby an aggrieved party may deal with the situation himself on getting permission from the Minister.

However the damage being done may sometimes be such as calls for immediate remedial action and Senators will recall that this type of situation is catered for under sections 22 and 23 which I dealt with earlier. In brief, the approach to the question of damage caused by certain wild birds and wild animals is that reasonable facilities must be afforded for the elimination of the source of trouble, with the conservation element dominant only where the damage is occasioned by rare or threatened species of fauna.

Section 43 is a proposal aimed at ensuring that certain conservation benefits which will result from the Bill will not be unwittingly diminished by drainage schemes. The areas concerned will in the main comprise wetland haunts of fauna and flora which are set aside as nature reserves and refuges and also lands which become the subject of "management agreements" under section 19. The intention is that where the Commissioners of Public Works propose to undertake drainage schemes on lands which include these prime wildlife areas they will consult the Minister for Lands with a view to safeguarding these conservation sites to the utmost extent practicable, if necessary by some limitation of the scope of the scheme.

Notwithstanding the obligation on the commissioners under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, to consult certain other State authorities when embarking on a drainage scheme, the provisions in section 43 are regarded as a desirable further precaution in so far as protection of the special areas to which I have referred are concerned. The section is all the more important when it is realised that the habitats concerned may comprise places of international significance. There may be some who feel that the powers sought under section 43 do not go far enough but I am satisfied that to seek more stringent restrictions on the national land drainage programme would be unreasonable.

Section 44 is an important provision relating to trespass on lands in pursuit of wildlife, principally game species. The section is really a further measure, augmenting section 28, to combat poaching. Particular attention is drawn to subsection (2), which lists the categories of persons who may challenge a trespasser; and also to subsections (4) and (5), which deal with prosecutions. In the latter context I should point out (a) that this is the only instance under the Bill where the bringing of a prosecution will not be subject to the ordinary constraints applicable to prosecutions under the Act and (b) that in any proceedings for an offence under section 44 the onus of proof that he was on land with lawful authority will rest with the defendant.

The commercial exploitation of wildlife resources, both in relation to game and non-game species, would if left uncontrolled quickly tend to frustrate many of the positive conservation proposals enshrined in the Bill. Such exploitation need not necessarily be confined to national boundaries; it also has international connotations in terms of imports and exports for which suitable guidelines must be laid down. This whole sector, in so far as wildlife coming within the ambit of the Bill is concerned, is dealt with in Part III, the overall title of which is the regulation and control of wildlife dealing and the transport, import and export of wildlife.

For purposes of the present exercise, sections 45 to 50 can be grouped together as they collectively provide a system of control over the business of wildlife dealing. This activity involves the purchase and sale of protected wild birds, and their eggs, and protected wild animals, including of course game species in both categories. The Game Preservation Act, 1930, contained certain statutory controls in relation to game species, but more comprehensive measures are now required to conform with the broader provisions of the Bill. However, the basic control elements—namely, a licensing system and obligation to keep records—are being retained.

Section 45 provides that only licensed wildlife dealers shall sell, keep for sale or purchase specimens, live or dead, of protected wild fauna, including the flesh of such fauna and, in the case of wild birds, their eggs. The sale of fauna lawfully killed— for example, game species during an open season—is exempted. However, past experience points to a need to control the purchase of game by hotels and other catering establishments and there are special provisions accordingly in subsections (3) and (4).

Section 46 is an enabling provision empowering the Minister to prohibit or suitably control the purchase and sale of any protected species for specified periods where this is desirable in the interests of overall conservation of the species in question. The section would also enable the Minister to control the various aspects of the business of wildlife dealing by means of comprehensive regulations.

Section 47 is the statutory basis for the licensing of wildlife dealers with a provision, in subsection (2), for a transitional period after the Bill comes into operation. The procedure for the granting and renewal of wildlife dealers' licences is set out in section 48. The intention is that the Minister will issue or renew a licence on foot of a certificate of suitability granted by the District Court. Section 49 deals with revocation of licences on conviction of licence holders of certain offences under the Bill, and section 50 empowers the Minister to publish lists of licence holders or of persons whose licences have been revoked.

Section 51 will control the transport of certain fauna by imposing an obligation on persons who despatch protected wild fauna or parts thereof and, in the case of wild birds, their eggs in various types of containers to indicate clearly on the container (a) their names and addresses and (b) the contents. There is a saver in subsection (4) to cover the transport of game species lawfully taken during an open season.

Regulations to control the import and export of fauna and flora are foreshadowed in sections 52 and 53 respectively. The import controls, which of course are not confined to species protected under the Bill, are necessary (a) to preserve the characteristics of native species, (b) to prevent the entry of pest species into this country and (c) to enable the terms of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to be complied with. Ireland has already signed this convention subject to ratification following the enactment of the Bill.

The export controls, section 53, reflect similar existing restrictions on certain game bird exports with appropriate modification and enlargement to cater for the much broader range of protected species, including flora, envisaged under the Bill.

In regard to both imports and exports, it is intended that the necessary regulations will be made only after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and there are provisions for the granting of licences to meet genuine needs.

The final section in Part III, section 54, requires little comment. It simply sets out the obligation which attaches to persons engaged in the kind of imports and exports which I have just dealt with, to comply with any relevant conditions arising under the Customs Act.

Part IV of the Bill carries the general subtitle of "Land and Waters". In addition to providing for a revised land acquisition procedure, this part is concerned with the unification and rationalisation of certain services within my Department dealing with forestry, wildlife conservation and allied matters. It also contains a number of important provisions affecting inland waters and the territorial seas.

The new acquisition system is contained in section 55. This is rather long and involved but the basic intention is to provide a more expeditious procedure for land acquisition whether the land is destined for afforestation or wildlife conservation purposes or a combination of both. Operation of the section is confined to registered land but the system will embrace the bulk of the Minister's land purchase transactions.

The long delays which arise from title clearance in the closing of sales of land purchased by my Department —apart altogether from the many disadvantages from the departmental standpoint—have over the years been a persistent outside source of criticism and complaint. It is most desirable that some improvement be brought about in this sector and the purchase order procedure envisaged under section 55 will, I feel, go a long way towards remedying the situation.

The details of the section are dealt with at considerable length in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill and I do not propose to repeat them here. However, there are a few aspects of the proposal which I should like to emphasise.

Firstly, there is no element of compulsion involved: the entire process is based on a willingness on the part of owners and occupiers of land to sell their interests to the Minister. Secondly, there will be a number of constraints before the Minister can make a purchase order. And, thirdly, there is provision for compensating bona fide late claimants with the possibility of recovering the amount of such compensation from the person who agreed to sell the land in the first instance.

I am confident that the new procedure will result in a speedier and more satisfactory all-round treatment of land acquisition cases, which will benefit both the Department and those who are willing to sell their lands for State afforestation or wildlife conservation purposes. The effects of the provision in broad outline will be that, where a purchase order is made in respect of land being purchased by the Minister for purposes of this Bill or of the Forestry Acts, it will automatically vest the land in the Minister in fee simple and all estates, trusts, encumbrances, rights and claims— with a few exceptions—affecting the land will attach to the purchase money. There are appropriate refinements in the procedure to cater for the situation where lands are held in commonage.

Section 56 will enable all land vested under the relevant provisions of this Bill, to be managed and used, as appropriate, for afforestation, wildlife conservation, game development and other kindred purposes. The existing statutory provisions, which are confined to afforestation, would clearly be too restrictive in the context of the broader mandate which the Minister will have henceforth.

In case some land in the Minister's possession is unsuitable for management or use within that expanded mandate, the Minister will have discretion as to how it should be dealt with. A practical illustration of this would be where the Minister, in the context of the Forestry Acts or the Bill, is obliged to purchase in its entirety a large property which includes some land which may not be suitable for forestry or wildlife purposes.

I come now to section 57. Senators will recall that when dealing earlier with section 30 I referred to inland waters and their importance as wildlife habitats. Outlining the proposed measures to control hunting on these areas, I also indicated that some further steps in relation to them were contemplated under section 57 of the Bill. The section is an attempt to clarify the situation in relation to certain inland waters, mainly those which are sometimes referred to as State lakes.

In the case of some inland lakes, property rights are already clearly established and no problems of tenure arise; but in other cases ownership is either believed to have vested in the State, as successor to the Crown, or else has never been clarified. The potential of such lakes in the sphere of wildlife conservation—for example, their full utilisation as nature reserves or the benefits of controlled shooting over them—is such that some machinery is desirable to determine their precise ownership, that is, whether they are privately owned or vested in the State.

A mechanism to facilitate this determination is proposed in section 57. Very briefly, the intention is that the Minister would publish in Iris Oifigiúil and local newspapers particulars of lakes and other inland waters the title to which is in doubt and would require interested persons to lodge within a specified period particulars of any claims they wish to put forward. If no claims are received or if, in relation to bona fide claims, the Minister acquires by agreement the interests of such claimants, he will then be empowered to declare by order that the fee simple of the particular lake or inland water belongs to the State. Where late claims are received and proved, there is provision for compensating aggrieved parties.

As regards the general implementation of the section, I should point out that ordinarily it is not intended that fishing rights would be included in the invitation of claims. Such rights would therefore not normally be comprehended by a declaration order. However the section is so drafted as to make it possible, exceptionally, to depart from this general approach—for example, where fish life constitutes a significant element in the establishment of a nature reserve in any lake or inland water concerned.

Section 58 extends to the territorial seas of the State the kind of restrictions on hunting which would apply to foreshore and inland waters under section 30. By their nature the territorial seas are areas of major interest where the conservation of seabirds, marine mammals, and so on, are concerned. Like foreshore and inland lakes, they comprise habitats which are liable to severe hunting pressure and excessive disturbance of fauna. By formally asserting that hunting rights over the territorial seas belong to the State and making hunting over such areas subject to permission of the Minister, appropriate control in this important sector of conservation will be feasible.

Section 59 is an enabling measure authorising the making of regulations governing the use by the public for such purposes as leisure and education of State-owned foreshore and refuges for fauna, designated under section 17. The regulations would be the subject of appropriate advance consultation with other interests and their scope would be circumscribed by the extent of the wildlife conservation values of the locations involved. Any regulations affecting the public use of nature reserves in private ownership or of lands owned by any board established under the Act would be made only at the request of and by agreement with such owner or board.

As regards properties held by the Minister, ownership entitles him to allow the public to use these properties, as appropriate and a statutory provision to this effect is not required. However there is a need to ensure that breach of any bye-laws and so on made by the Minister in this context will be an offence under the Bill and liable to an appropriate penalty. This particular point is provided for in subsection (11) of section 59.

Sections 60 and 61 are further examples of the proposed unification of services by adapting procedures under the Forestry Acts to parallel activities stemming from the Wildlife Bill. Section 60 is concerned with the creation of external rights of way. Where such rights are needed in connection with lands being used for State afforestation purposes, section 21 of the Forestry Act, 1946, lays down the procedure to be followed, a procedure which involves an application by the Minister to the Lay Commissioners of the Land Commission. The effect of section 60 will be to apply this procedure also to rights of way required in connection with the management of lands acquired for purposes of the Bill.

Similarly, section 61 is designed to adapt the relevant provisions of the Forestry Act, 1946, to the needs of the Bill in so far as the extinguishment of easements affecting acquired lands are concerned.

Part V of the Bill deals with the necessary amendment of other legislation arising from some provisions of the Bill. The Firearms Act, 1925, is a case in point. The statutory authority for the issue of firearm certificates resides in section 3 of that Act, but the introduction of the concept of a game licence under section 29 of the Bill will result in a changed procedure for issuing firearm certificates in respect of guns being used for game shooting. The gist of the amendment of section 3 of the Firearms Act, 1925, contained in section 62 is that in future production of a game licence will be a necessary prerequisite to the issue of a firearm certificate for a gun intended to be used by—

(a) a resident sportsman who wishes to hunt certain mammal species and

(b) a visitor to the State who wishes to hunt any type of game.

I have already dealt with section 29 with the case of the resident sportsman who wishes to shoot only game birds and hares.

Amendments of the Firearms Act, 1964, which are set out in section 65 reflect in the main the need to adapt certain sections of that Act which relate to existing game species to the broader concepts of protected species under the Bill.

Section 63 is another provision aimed at unifying certain powers and procedures relating to State afforestation and wildlife conservation by adapting certain sections of the Forestry Act, 1946, to the needs of the Bill. The most significant of these provisions is in subsection (1). The basic powers relating to the Minister's functions in carrying out the State afforestation programme—for example, the purchase, sale and exchange of land and so on—are contained in section 9 of the Forestry Act, 1946. The effect of subsection (1) of section 63, will be to make these powers apply equally to corresponding ministerial functions in the sphere of wildlife conservation.

I explained the general procedure relating to the creation of rights of way when commenting on section 60 a few minutes ago. Subsection (2) of section 63 is merely a modification of that procedure in cases where public user of rights of way is to be permitted. The effect of subsections (3) and (4) is to apply the Minister's existing compulsory land acquisition powers in the afforestation sector to land required for wildlife conservation purposes. However, I hasten to add that the objective here is primarily to set down a unified statutory basis for all land being acquired by the Minister. In practice compulsory powers in relation to acquisition of land are rarely exercised, the vast bulk of land intake being the result of voluntary sales by vendors. No departure from this practice is envisaged.

The Forestry Act, 1946, defined vermin as (a) deer and (b) wild animals, other than hares, likely to damage trees or plants. In the light of the contents of the Bill a revised definition is obviously necessary. This is provided for in subsection (5) of section 63, the effect of which is that in future vermin will consist of all species of wild animals and wild birds which are not given protection under the Bill.

Section 64 envisages a slight amendment of the State Property Act, 1954. In the First Schedule to that Act properties vested in the Minister for Lands under the Forestry Acts are excluded from the operation of certain sections of the Act. The intention in section 64 is simply to extend this exclusion to lands which will vest in the Minister through the operation of the Bill.

The effect of section 66 is to amend the Registration of Title Act, 1964, so as to add to the list of items to be registered as burdens on the relevant folios management agreements, under section 18 of the Bill, which are binding on successors in title.

The sale of animals as pets is already regulated under Part V of the Protection of Animals Act, 1965. Such animals are likely to be largely, but not exclusively, in the domestic category. However, the Bill—notably in section 45—also restricts the sale of certain wild fauna and it is necessary to avoid overlapping between the two statutes. The proposed modification of the 1965 Act in section 67 of the Bill will meet the situation.

I have now reached the final part of this long Bill, Part VI, which incorporates a group of diverse but essential provisions under the general heading of "Miscellaneous".

Section 68 is concerned with the inspection of land by authorised officers of the Minister for various purposes—for example, to ascertain its suitability for acquisition under section 55, to establish the needs of wildlife conservation, and so on. It will be noted that such inspections would be carried out only with the consent of, or following due notice to, the owner or occupier of the lands. Moreover, anybody aggrieved by a notice of intention to inspect his lands may have recourse to the District Court which can either prohibit entry on the lands or permit entry on such conditions as the court sees fit to impose. The Forestry Act, 1946, also includes provisions for inspection of land and in framing section 68 of the Bill it was the intention to avoid overlapping with these. However, I may say that I am not so sure that this has been totally achieved and I shall examine the matter carefully before Committee Stage to decide whether any change is necessary.

Section 69 does not call for any lengthy comment. It is a general composite provision designed to make it quite clear that a variety of practices—such as aiding and abetting the commission of offences, giving false or misleading information, failure to comply with regulations and declarations, and so on—will, in themselves, constitute offences under the Bill and attract appropriate penalties.

The position as regards prosecution of offences is provided for in section 70. The right of the Minister to prosecute offences under the Bill is set out in subsection (1). The Garda Síochána will, of course, have the same authority to prosecute under the Bill when it becomes law as they have under legislation generally. In so far as persons other than the Minister or the Garda are concerned, however, subsection (2) will enable them to bring prosecutions—apart from prosecutions relating to trespess in pursuit of game which, as I explained when dealing with section 44, are in a special category—with the consent of the Minister or a specifically-named officer of his Department not below the rank of assistant secretary.

The next section, section 71, is a technical provision designed to eliminate the waste of official time which would result if departmental officers had to be present in court in order to prove that an open season order or a licence was not in force when an alleged offence was committed. The existence or otherwise of a ministerial order declaring an open season will be a simple matter to demonstrate. As regards a licence, the onus will be on defendant to prove that he was in possession of a valid one when the alleged offence was committed.

I come now to the enforcement provisions of the Bill and in this context the overall picture can best be got by reading sections 72 and 73 together. I should say that in formulating any proposals of this kind due regard must be had to the realities of the situation in two important respects: the scope of the enforcement agency and the extent of the powers which it is to be given. As regards the former, it goes without saying that much of the benefit intended to flow from the Bill could be lost unless suitable enforcement measures are provided. At the same time any proposals for the establishment of a comprehensive wardening service, such as would be required to secure absolute enforcement of a Bill whose writ extends to the entire State and its territorial waters, would be so costly that one has little option but to settle for a less ambitious system.

And in deciding the "teeth" which can be given to whatever agency ultimately emerges, the nature of the Bill itself and present day levels of public tolerance in the sphere of State interference with private citizens are basic considerations which cannot be disregarded.

This is the difficult background against which the proposals in section 72 and 73 have been framed. However they reflect, in my view, a reasonable and realistic balance between all the relevant factors in providing a framework which can be built on and expanded according as resources can be made available and according as the needs of a particular situation may dictate.

For practical purposes, enforcement of the Bill, apart from Garda Síochána involvement, will rest with authorised persons to be appointed by the Minister. Such persons can be appointed from within the Forest and Wildlife Service but I would like to think, in relation to this particular aspect of the Bill, that suitable candidates would, if necessary, be forthcoming from the ranks of voluntary organisations directly concerned in wildlife conservation, game development and so on in order to augment full-time personnel. In any event I shall be happy to discuss this possibility further with the organisations concerned in due course.

As regards the actual powers to be vested in authorised persons under section 72, these relate to such matters as entry, search, inspection and detention arising in the context of measures for protection of fauna and flora contained in the Bill. It will be observed however that searches of persons or private dwellings will not be permitted and that searches of other premises may be made only under search warrants obtained in accordance with section 73.

Section 74 sets out the various financial penalties which will attach to offences committed under the Bill.

The normal penalties are contained in subsection (1) but it will be observed from the remaining subsections that certain offences—for example, in relation to such aspects as regulations governing wildlife dealing, nature reserves or refuges and endangered species of fauna and flora—will be subject to special penalties. In case some Senators may be inclined to regard these penalties as unduly severe, let me remind the House that payment of several hundred pounds for such items as outstanding specimen deer trophy or for the egg of a rare species of wild bird is not unknown.

Further penalties of a non-monetary kind are contained in the two following sections of the Bill. Section 75 would enable the courts to revoke a game licence and disqualify a licence holder, but there is a safeguard whereby the holder may retain a shotgun under a limited firearm certificate for vermin destruction. The various items which are liable to be forfeited following convictions for offences under the Bill are set out in section 75, but before a court orders any forfeiture owners or other interested persons will be given suitable opportunity to make their case.

The two final sections of the Bill, sections 77 and 78, are concerned with items seized and detained by the Garda or authorised persons in the course of implementing the provisions of the Bill. Section 77 will afford an aggrieved person a right of appeal to the District Court and an entitlement, where his appeal succeeds, not only to the return of seized items but also to appropriate compensation.

In some instances it may be necessary or undesirable to retain seized items from the time an offence is committed until the subsequent court proceedings take place. This necessitates a suitable statutory provision regarding their disposal and this is contained in section 78. Where articles such as documents, weapons, traps and so on are concerned, the written consent of the owner thereof will, under subsection (1), be a prerequisite to their disposal. In many cases however the thing seized will likely consist of a specimen or specimens of dead fauna—for example, game unlawfully taken—and to meet such situations the more elaborate procedure in subsections (2) to (7) is necessary.

This brings me to the end of the individual sections of the Bill and up to the Schedules, five in all. I have already referred to these as appropriate in the course of this statement and only a further brief mention of each ought be necessary at this stage.

The First Schedule lists the legislation proposed for repeal. This is, for the most part, very antiquated law which I think few of us will be sorry to see removed from the Statute Books.

The Second Schedule contains the various provisions affecting any boards which may be established under section 14 of the Bill. However, as I indicated earlier, that section is primarily an enabling measure to meet possible future needs and no immediate proposals arising from it are envisaged.

The Third Schedule relating to wild birds, contains what might be called the black-listed category, that is, well-known pest species for which conservation measures are not at present deemed necessary. In other words, the provisions of the Bill will apply to all species other than those listed in the Second Schedule. On the other hand, the Fifth Schedule, relating to wild animals, specifically sets out the species of wild animals other than birds—for example, certain land mammals, marine mammals and amphibians—which are to be given protection. Therefore the provisions of the Bill do not extend to other wild animal species. Senators will recall, however, that it will be possible to add to or take from both Schedules as and when circumstances require.

The Fourth Schedule lists species of fauna—wild birds and wild animals —which as of now are regarded as falling within the rare or threatened categories and requiring the greatest degree of protection. This list also is capable of variation should the need arise.

I have tried to explain as clearly as possible the main objectives of the Bill and the various proposals for their realisation. I am sorry that my introductory address has been rather protracted but I am afraid this was inevitable in the context of such a long and complex piece of legislation.

In my opinion the Bill now before the House provides a sound basic framework for the conservation of wildlife in Ireland for the foreseeable future. If it can be improved or embellished by our deliberations here, then by all means let this be done. Incidentally, in this connection I have given an undertaking to various interested voluntary organisations involved in game and wildlife conservation to discuss the Bill with them and to listen to their arguments as to whether and how it might be improved. These discussions are already under way in my Department and, should anything emerge to warrant amendment of the present proposals, I shall bring it before the House in the appropriate manner on Committee Stage.

I do not think that the Bill can be regarded as controversial, in any parliamentary sense of the term, and it is my earnest hope that, after it has been fully debated by the Oireachtas, the end-product will constitute an effective charter for wildlife conservation in this country. I will be glad therefore to have the views of all sides of the House and I shall give the most careful consideration to all constructive suggestions which emerge in the course of this debate.

I confidently recommend the Bill to the House.

I should like to welcome this Bill and to congratulate the Minister on an extremely impressive dissertation on the subject of wildlife. In fact he has dealt with the subject in such a comprehensive way that as far as the principle of the Bill is concerned there is very little to be said on the subject from this side of the House. I can say without hesitation that the Bill is generally acceptable and any comments we will have to make on it will be on the Committee Stage where there will be some suggestions of detail in relation to the proposals set out in the Bill.

This Bill has been on the stocks for a long time. On the one hand the Minister, as he has already acknowledged, found that a great deal of the work necessary to produce the Bill was done but, on the other hand, he must get credit for having brought the Bill before the House. He deserves credit for giving us something to discuss and for giving us a Bill which I am quite sure in the very near future will become an Act and which will do a great deal of good in the sphere with which it deals.

It is important that this legislation has reached this stage because I understand that every other country in the EEC has produced an Act of this kind. Consequently, we are a little bit behind those other countries. It is particularly important that this country should have worthwhile and comprehensive legislation dealing with wildlife because, comparatively speaking, it is probably of more importance to us than to any of the other countries in Europe. Consequently, it is a good thing we have now reached the stage of considering this extremely comprehensive Bill, which is in most respects a very worthy and effective one.

The question of wildlife can be dealt with under five different headings. It is important that we should have a Bill of this kind from the point of view of ensuring the humane treatment of animals. Secondly, it is important from a scientific point of view. We have heard a lot, particularly in recent years, of the importance of the balance of nature. When some flora or fauna or insects seemed to be doing a great deal of damage and when an attempt was made to eliminate them, in many instances it was found the consequences were very serious indeed. What seemed to be the cure of a serious situation was far worse than the complaint which existed originally. Consequently in many cases the ramifications for fauna and flora, when the balance of nature was upset, were very serious and in many cases quite starting. This Bill, which will keep some check, control and observation in regard to the balance of nature, is very important and a very worthwhile step forward.

Most people will look at this Bill from the point of its effect on sport. For many people hunting, shooting and fishing are of supreme importance. In so far as this Bill controls the effect of sport and conserves wildlife so that sport can continue in a reasonable way, it is very much worthwhile.

From the aesthetic point of view it is important to have this Bill. For those who live in the country and appreciate the beauties of nature it is also important. It is essential that these beauties be preserved. For those less fortunate people who live in the city, who occasionally get away from the drabness and bleak life of the city and go to the country to be refreshed by the beauties of the country, it is of great importance to them that fauna and flora be preserved.

From the material and economic point of view it is important that wildlife be preserved. From the sporting and aesthetic point of view it is important that the beauties and wildlife we have in the country be preserved and continue to be an attraction for tourists. We have limited attractions for tourists. We do not have the attractions that are found in the countries which can provide plenty of sunshine and bathing but we have some very distinctive attractions which continue to bring tourists from abroad and these attractions are very largely centred around wildlife, animals and the beauty of nature in this country. From the purely economic and material point of view it is essential that we have a Bill of this kind. It will ensure that in so far as possible these attractions continue to exist and that we will continue to have the tourists coming to get the benefit of them.

In general it is a very detailed and comprehensive Bill. It has entailed a great deal of hard work and much credit must go to the Minister, to all those who were concerned in getting together the material and in drafting the Bill. In the important debate which will take place on Committee Stage there will be no questioning of the objectives of the Bill but there may be some views, reservations and suggestions as how the details should be dealt with and how certain details in the Bill should be amended. For the present I welcome the Bill and I look forward to further discussion on Committee Stage.

I should like to join with Senator Eoin Ryan in welcoming this Bill. All of us who live in the country know that a Bill such as this is long overdue but when we see the massive document that has been prepared and put before us so ably by the Minister and when we realise all its ramifications we may be glad it has taken such an amount of study and such a detailed preparation so that all aspects of the protection of our wildlife and the preservation of our environment will be effectively dealt with.

I agree with Senator Ryan that most of the discussion will take place on Committee Stage in order to see whether some sections can be improved. I am glad to hear that the Fianna Fáil Party will look at this Bill with a view to its improvement. It is non-controversial.

Many aspects of wildlife have been neglected. For instance, we have not protected our songbirds. Many of us who lived in the country in the past would like to hear the song of the goldfinch, the thrush and the lark and indeed the blackbird, though he was, to some extent, a predator. Still, we had a love for that perky little blackbird. The robin, fortunately, is still with us but there are a number of small birds, not classified as songbirds, that we knew in our youth but see no longer. Nobody has told us the reason.

A vast amount of research will have to be done under the terms of this Bill to determine which of our small bird species are still extant and how we are going to set about improving the numbers. Everybody knows that pesticides and insecticides have had a marked effect on the mortality rate of all kinds of birds and mammals. The necessary work to be carried out under this Bill is this type of research. Why have these birds disappeared? What are the reasons, apart from the human predators who have attacked them—by these I mean the sportsmen from abroad who come in with guns and fire at everything that moves in and out of season. I am glad that this Bill will protect our wildlife from that type of predator. In the past, the Garda have not been able to do anything about it because of ineffective legislation. To make this Bill effective the Department of Justice will have to deal with many aspects and the co-operation of the Departments of Justice and Lands will be necessary in this regard.

This Bill will deal with the environment to a certain extent. It will protect the flora and fauna and will have its impact in many other factors of environmental control. This House will soon debate a Bill from the Department of Local Government to control the environment and there will be many aspects of that Bill which will impinge on the Bill before us with regard to the poisoning of our fauna by industrial pollution and by sewage pollution from our towns and cities. The effect on our wildlife in the rivers will have to be considered and I suppose the inland fisheries people will be vitally concerned. In the parks that will become the property of the Department under this Bill, fishing rights and the preservation of fish inside these environments will be involved. We will need the co-operation of various Departments and State bodies to ensure that nothing happens inside these particular preserves that would be harmful to fish life and that no pollution from outside is allowed to damage them.

The Bill is so wide-ranging that firearm control is also involved. Possibly the Department of Lands had at no time any intention of being involved in this matter but it is necessary. This can be discussed on Committee Stage at a later date. Some control is necessary in the handing out of game licences for firearms. This will have to be done in order that a farmer may have a shotgun for the protection of his farm against certain types of pests. The farmer is not the type of person who goes out to shoot game and is not a sportsman of that kind. His rights will have to be protected so that he does not have to go to any extreme procedures in order to get a licence for his shotgun. I welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for the long speech he has given—one-and-a-half hours.

I should like to make the following suggestion. Any Minister who comes in to speak should have a desk elbow-high so that he could rest his papers on and, indeed, his person on that desk. It is unfair that the Minister should have to stand with no support while he addresses this House. It might be said that if he had such a desk it would screen him from the House when answering questions, but it is very necessary and it would add some little tone which might be necessary to this side of the House. A Minister is too open here. It is not that I want to enclose the Minister from any shafts that might have to be thrown——

It might make the Minister a protected species.

It might come under the heading of environmental control. I welcome the Bill and I hope there will be a useful discussion on it over the next few weeks.

I intend, as the other Senators have been, to be brief. Most of the debate on the Bill will have to do with minutiae. Nobody in his right mind could oppose the Bill. It is an extremely humane piece of legislation. It is voluminous and within its own field, which is not totally unlimited, it seems to cover the ground extremely well. However, the discussion of the Bill will take place section by section. The bulk of the contributions either from the Opposition, the Government side or the Independent side, will be on matters of detail.

I am sure the Minister, true to his form, will be very receptive to any amendments or suggestions that are put forward in good faith. The most impressive thing about the Bill is that, basically, it is apolitical. It is a humane piece of legislation designed to treat our environment and the animal life of our countryside with an increased degree of care, solicitude and tenderness. Clearly it is not a vote-catching exercise. Badgers, foxes or rabbits cannot vote—if rabbits could vote the Bill would have been passed long ago as they tend to very large families. The bona fides of the Bill and the philosophy behind it are to be applauded and welcomed.

Senator Ryan referred to the five heads under which it could be considered. Its respect for life is basically very important to us because if one despises life, even animal life, the chances are that that kind of callousness can infect the human psyche as well and our attitudes. The scientific aspect and the balance of nature are very important also. In the Bill sport is not stamped out but is subject to well-balanced controls. The aesthetic aspect and the whole material concern were also mentioned. Our environment is one of our greatest investments, even on the purely financial level, because of its tourist potential.

The only reservation I have about the Bill is one over which the Minister for Lands has no control. It seems to be too limited. It is part of what should be a far larger operation. Senator West and I have a motion on the Order Paper calling for a Department of the Environment. It states:

That Seanad Éireann, in view of the present rapid increase in urbanisation, mining, industrial development and other sources of pollution, is of opinion that a separate Department of the Environment should be set up with responsibility for the preservation of the country's scenery, wildlife, fisheries, architectural and archaeological riches and other cultural and tourist amenities.

I do not despair of that ambition even yet. I am cheered by and I applaud this Bill which meets in some measure the aspirations Senator West and I have embodied in that motion. One of the best ways of looking at the Bill would be as a step towards the establishment of a Department of the Environment. Perhaps it could be within the ambit of the Ministry of Lands.

Wildlife has many ramifications. An interesting aspect of this Bill is that it recognises the relevance of wildlife preservation to all kinds of things, such as arterial drainage in section 12, damage to agricultural, forestry or fishing interests in section 22, and to the Commissioners of Public Works arterial drainage schemes, to measures to safeguard nature reserves, refuges for fauna and lands the subject of management agreements and so on.

Interesting omissions from the Bill are architectural, archaeological and historical remains. They are part of the countryside and of the city scene. They are not totally separated from the whole interest in conserving wildlife. Most of the rationale behind conserving wildlife comes from a concern for our community or our environment. Our concern with archaeological remains springs from the same kind of motive. One could envisage a situation where archaeological interests could conflict with wildlife interests. A possible example could be the erection of a bird sanctuary on a certain historic island. Where would the final authority rest? Who would decide between the claims of the pigeons and the claims of the medieval church? The whole question of wildlife is intimately bound up with the larger question of environment, encompassing tourist amenity, the beauty of the countryside, the concern for wildlife, forestry, agriculture and historical remains.

This is unfair to the Minister as it does not fall within his portfolio to order these affairs which are outside the ambit of the Department of Lands. All of these historical remains are on land. That dimension which is missing from the Bill is an interesting one.

The Bill does not seem to grasp as firmly as it might have the whole question of absentee landlordism, riparian rights and the enormous fees charged by absentee landlords for fishing on Ireland's inland waterways. Perhaps on Committee Stage that might be clarified and I may be proved wrong in the matter.

The Bill also states that the Minister has to be consulted by other Ministers with regard to various actions which are made possible under the provisions of this Bill. Ultimately I should like to see a Minister with control over the environment who would have to be consulted by the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and by any other Minister. The first consideration that should be called to mind when undertaking any development, be it an urban development such as Wood Quay or a rural development involving Bantry Bay, is that there should be an overall authority which would have to give permission for any radical decision. We need a city archaeologist who would work with a city architect and protect that aspect of the environment. Similarly, there should be county archaeologists, or at least regional archaeologists, and historians who would be consulted by a Minister— at present the Minister for Lands or the Minister for Local Government— but ultimately some Minister or Parliamentary Secretary for environmental development. Ireland is not so large that the whole scene cannot be encompassed in one purview. The whole scene should be involved in our consideration of wildlife, archaeological remains and all kinds of cultural historical and tourist amenities.

With those reservations which may be unfair in the sense that they are offered to the Minister for Lands, but with considerable reservations in the long term, I welcome the Bill, particularly on account of its generosity and the humanity of its spirit. It may prove in time a stepping stone towards an even larger and more global concern and regard for the whole question of our environment.

I should like to join the other speakers in congratulating the Minister on his long but very interesting speech this evening. I should like to welcome this Bill because it is 45 years since a Bill of this nature was introduced. I think that Bill was also introduced in the Seanad. Forty-five years is a long time in which to have no amending legislation in regard to wildlife.

A Government must be held responsible when no legislation is introduced and in that respect Fianna Fáil must plead guilty because they were in power for 32 of the 45 years. I do not know why efforts to introduce new wildlife legislation were not made. During that time I cannot remember hearing any outcry from the various organisations interested in wildlife, so they too must share some of the blame. I understand this Bill was first mooted in 1968 when Deputy Seán Flanagan was Minister. I cannot understand why it took seven years to come before the House. Some other Government Departments— Local Government in particular— may have contributed to the delay. I hope this Bill will be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas without delay because its implementation is a matter of urgency.

Bringing in this Bill now is like locking the stable door when the horse has bolted. Much of our wildlife has disappeared from rural Ireland. It will be quite an undertaking to have this wildlife restored. Anybody who lives in the country will notice, year by year, the decline of our feathered friends—for example, the finches, the lark and the corncrake. Twenty years ago one would hardly be able to sleep with the sound of corncrakes croaking. So far, this year, I have heard only one corncrake in my district, which covers a large area. So if something is not done soon, that one corncrake may also disappear.

There are numerous other small birds which if they have not already done so will soon disappear. Nobody has offered any reason for the disappearance of these species. I have discussed the problem with people and many are inclined to blame it on the use of artificial fertiliser. Also, land is being intensively fertilised in recent years with silage also making a contribution to the problem. Where silage is being made the meadows are cut in May and June, whereas previously they were only cut in July. As a result the nests and young birds are being destroyed by the rakers and mowers. As was mentioned by another speaker, all the sprays used in killing weeds and insects on crops must have a fatal effect on the wild bird population.

I have not heard of any research being carried out on this problem and if there has been none I would suggest to the Minister that he should take the matter up with An Foras Talúntais to see if something could be done.

The Minister proposes to appoint an advisory council. I welcome this decision and I am sure he will appoint people who will be fully conversant with all aspects of wildlife. Game councils are doing a lot of good work in this area and they should have the right to nominate people to the advisory council. Immediately this Bill becomes law the Minister will be plagued by people advising him on wildlife and trying to be appointed to the council. If the Minister takes the advice of the game councils he will not make any mistakes in the people he appoints.

The Bill also states that the Minister may appoint a board. I hope this will be done eventually but I should not like to see the advisory council being abolished because they are the people who will continue to give advice to the Minister and his board.

In future I hope game councils will get grants. Game councils and gun clubs are contributing a lot to game preservation. Were it not for the establishment of game councils and gun clubs there would be very little game left. In my country there is a very good game council, each year they release 3,500 pheasants, which is a big undertaking considering the expense involved in their rearing. The trouble with pheasants reared in artificial conditions is that they are easy prey to wild animals such as foxes, when they are released. If some other means were devised of breeding pheasants rather than artificially, it would be a great help.

I understand that the stocks of mallard are increasing and this is due to the efforts of gun clubs and the Department of Lands. However there is no improvement in the stocks of grouse. A greater effort must be made in this respect by both gun clubs and the Department of Lands. There is plenty of bad land available for grouse restocking. In Dundrum, County Tipperary, the Forestry Division are doing a lot of work for the restocking of game.

I do not intend to deal with the Bill section by section because that will be done on Committee Stage but there are certain sections which it would be no harm mentioning at this stage.

Sections 28 and 29 propose to regulate shooting and hunting. This is something that game councils are very concerned with and it has been suggested to me that as well as giving a game licence the Minister should also ensure that an insurance policy will be taken out on each gun. It has been suggested also that nobody should be allowed to sell game unless he has a licence to sell game. What is happening at the moment is that people going shooting can sell that game.

There is no great objection to that by gun clubs except that when the season opens in October or November certain people take their holidays and they go out every day and they shoot and shoot away before them. They are shooting for profit because they sell this game. The result is that the people in the gun clubs who can only go out on Sunday or Saturday find there is very little game left for them. They feel that people who are abusing this shooting in that way should have licences to sell the game. Of course you can easily say if they have licences they can sell. The reason gun clubs feel licences should not be given to those people without the approval of gun clubs is that local clubs will know the type of people who will abuse licences and those who will not. I feel that all people interested in shooting living in Dublin or elsewhere should be members of gun clubs. Something should be done to make sure that foreigners coming in do not take over the preserves of gun clubs. If every person interested in the sport was a member of a gun club the clubs would be in a better position to control what is happening on their preserves.

I should like to mention another mammal that is fast disappearing from Ireland, and that is the hare. I remember 20 years ago or more one of the greatest pastimes on Sunday in winter was open coursing and I used to look forward to take part in open coursing at that time. Things have changed so much now that there is no longer open coursing because there are no hares. In certain parts of the country, in my own part in particular, there are practically no hares.

As a result, Sunday coursing or open coursing is a thing of the past. Twenty years ago or more you had coursing clubs in every parish and most of those clubs held confined coursing meets, and they seemed to have had plenty of hares for them. They seemed to be able to get sufficient hares on their preserves to run a coursing club for a coursing meet for maybe a day or two days. All that seems to have changed and the only county I know of now that seems to have an abundance of hares is Galway.

I know what is happening as far as coursing clubs are concerned. Say the coursing season opens about the last week in September and continues until mid-February, the coursing clubs that commence in September go to Galway. They catch those hares there and bring them down to Tipperary or elsewhere. I am afraid those hares are being hawked around the country from September to February in a lot of cases. That is not right. I am all in favour of coursing, but the hare is entitled to a fair chance. It should be like it was 20 or 30 years ago when a coursing club went out to their preserves, caught their own hares, had them for their coursing, had trials the following Sunday and then let those hares off again on their preserves. That is not happening today and I regret to say that coursing clubs are not making any real attempt to restock their preserves. I fear that within a few years open and confined coursing will be things of the past.

We are told that the greyhound industry is one of our leading industries and I understand that Bord na gCon are making quite a lot of money from the greyhound industry, from the modern coursing. If they are, I feel that a share of that money should be ploughed back into the sport, even if it is only research, in order to find out what can be done to increase the hare population.

At the moment there is a hell of a row going on between the Irish Coursing Club and an organisation known as the Council Against Blood Sports. I do not want to get involved in any row between them and I am not a member of this Council Against Blood Sports, but in fairness to them I should like to pay a tribute to them for their dedication. I feel that they are sincere in their efforts to prevent cruelty to animals, but I am not prepared to go as far as they go. Indeed, I should like to compare them to another organisation known as the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I can remember an occasion when a farmer in my part of the country was stopped one day on the road because he had only three shoes on the horse and the horse was lame and this lady had him summoned for cruelty to the horse. The following day that lady was out at a hunt chasing a fox and the fox was torn to pieces. I feel that if a thing is cruel to a horse the same should apply to the fox and everything else. People looking after blood sports are sincere in what they are doing and they deserve a certain amount of support.

Section 34 of the Bill allows the netting of hares by coursing clubs for the restocking of their preserves. If that section is employed as it is, coursing clubs will not be able to catch hares for the purpose of having them chased by greyhounds. That is something that the Minister might like to have another look at.

There is another animal I should like to mention and that is the otter. Otters are a fast disappearing mammal also. In this country we have only three or four packs of otter hounds. They cannot do a lot of harm. In England and other countries otter hunting is now prohibited and we have English packs coming to this country hunting otters. They are being invited by people here. I think this is wrong. If they cannot kill otters in their own country they should not be allowed to kill them here. The skin of an otter is very valuable and that might be an encouragement. The Council Against Blood Sports are against that and they should be fully supported.

Mention has been made in the Bill of beagle hunting. Foot beagle hunting is a harmless sport. Beagles could follow a hare for a full day and would not catch up with him. It is a good pastime and good exercise and nothing should be done to prevent the hunting of hares by beagles. Badgers have been mentioned also. Badgers are also disappearing. They do no harm and should be fully protected.

The laying of poison is something I am worried about. If poison is laid for certain types of birds there is nothing to prevent other birds which should be protected from taking the poison. I know it is not possible for the Minister or anyone else to select poison which would kill one bird and not another.

I was pleased to see the provision to prevent hunting at night, by lamps, I presume, in the Bill. This is something that every farmer in the country is opposed to. It may have been all right 20 years ago when rabbits were plentiful and farmers were glad to get rid of them. They are not that plentiful now. When people go hunting with lamps, "dazzlers" as they are called, grave damage can be done to stock and stock are much more valuable now than they were years ago, bloodstock in particular. Farmers will give full support to this.

It is mentioned in the Bill that farmers may sell land to the Department for the purpose of keeping game. I presume the land referred to is bog land which is not worth much. Whatever it is worth, I feel that if the Department have to buy this kind of land they will pay more for it than the Forestry Division are paying for that type of land for forestry purposes. I do not know what they are paying at the moment but a few years ago they were giving only about £5 an acre for it. No farmer will sell land at that price. I hope farmers will get full market value for land. In section 18 a farmer may make his land available. If he makes his land available he should be fully compensated. It is provided in section 18 that he may not drain it. A farmer should get very good compensation for his land. Otherwise the Department will not get it from him and the purpose of the Bill will be defeated.

Section 72 mentions an authorised person. This is something which should be spelled out. Who is an authorised person? I presume it will be a gamekeeper or somebody like that. The Minister should spell out who the authorised person will be. Something has been suggested to me by gun clubs in regard to section 74 which provides for a fine not exceeding £50. They feel that £50 should be the minimum fine. I should like the Minister to take notice of that. That is all I have to say except to point out to the Minister that we will be putting in amendments, amendments which I hope he will accept on Committee Stage.

I wish to make only a few points. First of all I was very disturbed about the Bill because I have gone on record as saying that I am against blood sports and hunting. Consequently it caused me a great deal of concern having heard the full context of the Minister's introductory speech, having read the Bill and the explanatory memorandum, and having had regard to all the views that have been expressed in the Chamber today by people who have a more practical rather than an emotional attachment to this problem.

I appreciate that after so many years having elapsed there was the need for some form of legislation. In having brought this form of legislation forward, one would have to have regard to the total considerations of all group interests that might be affected by it. I have this emotional attachment because I am a Dublinman and I like to get out into the country. I like to see the wildlife when I can. I like to make use of whatever resources are around me. I love the natural world because I have not got it in Dublin. I am in the midst of a concrete jungle and noise. I am forced to listen to arguments on accepting the noise and so-called civilisation because I am supposed to be a practical modern man living in a modern city. However, I cannot help this emotional attachment to the environment and to the wildlife and the pleasure it gives me.

The Bill is not for my particular benefit so I have to take it in its general context. I should like to assure the people of the Irish Council against Blood Sport that I share a lot of their concern. Section 12 puts obligations on the various public bodies, Government Departments, local authorities, Commissioners of Public Works and certain other State bodies, to consult with the Minister for Lands before deciding on any action or undertaking any projects which have a detrimental effect on nature reserves or refuges for fauna which are established under sections 15, 16 and 17. These areas will be chosen for their special wildlife values and it will be very important that such section will be subsequently safeguarded to the utmost extent practicable. The system of consultation provided under section 12 will help to ensure that. This section may not be intended to provide a hearing to every crank in the country and I do not think it should be. Under this section there would be an opportunity for the Irish Council Against Blood Sports to make known their views and to continue to pursue the type of campaign they feel is necessary. It would also provide the opportunity for ordinary nature-loving people like myself to express their views about how these bodies should best be used and how the Bill should be implemented.

Frankly, I am not a very knowledgeable person about the environment. I am involved in it and, as I said earlier, emotionally attracted to it. I am not the only person with that type of emotional feeling. We must go a long way with the Minister in his general endeavour. He cannot cut out all of the cruelty and all of the abuse that might be associated with the pursuit of wildlife. But I feel that he has gone as far as he can in preserving it. He has tried to see that every point of view has been taken into consideration. For that reason I would welcome the Bill.

The Minister might give further thought to the question of penalties. Where people use the wrong type of traps, that inflicts tremendous cruelty on animals. For people who break the law this way the penalties could be a little bit more severe. It might be worthwhile considering this: after the Bill has been working for a while, and depending on what has happened between now and a certain trial period, the Minister might consider further and more severe penalties as a deterrent to people who might be guilty of brutality in the pursuit of wildlife. Not only in the interest of avoiding the pain that animals might suffer but also to make sure that the Bill does what it is intended to do, the requirements of wildlife should be kept in mind when any planning is done. Therefore it is necessary for the Minister to think about how people can be brought into line if they step out of line in this respect.

The other point I should like to ask the Minister about is this. Would it be possible to develop a greater interest in the preservation of wildlife by trying to influence the broadcasting authority, through the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, to have educational programmes on wildlife on television. Children are very often around when cruelty is inflicted upon animals, whether it be a dog chasing a cat, a fellow on horseback chasing hounds, or somebody going out with a ferret to root out rabbits.

I hope that the people concerned about these matters will make the best use possible of section 12 and of the Bill generally to see that on this small planet the natural preserves, the things that give satisfaction to a great number of people will be preserved. Regard should also be had to sections 15 and 16 which deals with establishing a refuge for fauna.

As I said, I am emotionally concerned about this matter. I am sorry that hares and foxes have still got to be chased. But, on balance, I realise that this is inevitable. I do not think the Minister could have done anything to eliminate that straight away. But the people in the Irish Council Against Blood Sports now have their opportunity. They have a Minister in office who has brought in this Wildlife Bill, which has been sought for a long period. He has tried to meet most points of view. He is only too ready to meet people and to listen to their views. I do not think he would be averse to amendments provided they did not take away from the general concepts of the Bill.

When the British occupied this part of the country wildlife was the preserve of the so-called gentry. The so-called Irish peasant could not ever look at an Irish pheasant let alone shoot one. But, as they say in Donegal, "The castles fell and the maidens rose". So today we find that many ordinary working people are interested in a shot. The days of the old landlords, which had certain advantages as far as the preservation of game is concerned and the destruction of vermin are concerned, are gone.

In those days gamekeepers were prevalent. They were responsible on the various estates throughout this country for the preservation of game and for the destruction of vermin. Since gamekeepers disappeared, it is I feel true to say that game in turn to a certain extent has rapidly declined and, unfortunately, the number of vermin has considerably increased.

Since the foundation of this State no Government have taken any worthwhile interest in the preservation of game or the destruction of vermin. This Bill is going part of the way. Is it going far enough? The Minister may not, of course, need extra legislation to do what I think he should do—to set himself a target so that one day Ireland will return to the sporting paradise it was a century ago. This can only be done by a very definite policy of vermin destruction and encouragement of game. As I said, this Bill goes part of the way to doing this.

The protection of nesting by not allowing burning or the clearing of vegetation between the 18th March and the 31st July is a very important contribution to this work, provided it is enforced. Everyone will realise that it can be very difficult to enforce this provision. There is an escape clause in that a person can claim that for agricultural purposes he had to clear or burn vegetation. As long as that clause is there, and as long as there is not a stricter method for getting permission to do this, this provision will be very difficult to enforce. Bonfire night falls within that period and I have no doubt that on that night a great deal of damage can be done to nesting.

Another very useful provision in the Bill is that if a person is found poaching on lands he must prove himself innocent. Heretofore he had to be proved guilty and this was very difficult. The withdrawal of game licences for rifles will be welcomed by all genuine sportsmen. The person who used the rifle for this sport was considered by sportsmen as a sneak. In the main, birds shot by rifles had to be in a sitting position and the birds did not get a sporting chance. The Minister has corrected this in this Bill and it is very welcome indeed. A very important provision in the Bill is that the onus of proof is now on the person caught with a bird. Hitherto, the person caught could claim that the bird was shot outside the court's jurisdiction. It was extremely difficult to prosecute a person under these circumstances. This provision will help discourage poachers in the future.

The Minister's proposal to appoint game wardens is welcome. But this will be a useless exercise unless these wardens are given proper authority to search and the power of arrest. Section 73 (3) of the Bill states:

A search warrant issued under this section shall not authorise any person to enter a dwelling.

I presume this means that a game warden will not have the authority to enter a dwelling. This subsection is unfortunate. I hope to table an amendment asking the Minister to delete this subsection. This means that a person can take a bird into a house hang it on the back of the door and the game warden or authorised person has not got the authority to follow him into the house. The authorised person or game warden should have power to have a search warrant and enter a dwelling to see if there are birds there which were shot in a wrongful way.

I support what Senator W. Ryan said about the method of appointment of the Wildlife Advisory Council. We have at the present time very good organisations, game councils and the gun clubs, doing tremendous work particularly in the destruction of vermin. As a result of their interest, the number of game in Ireland has increased considerably. I would like to see some members of this advisory council elected by either game councils or gun clubs. This would ensure that the right type of people are appointed. Irrespective of which Government are in office, there is a danger and a tendency to make a certain number of political appointments. If the people concerned are not fully interested and experienced their appointment would be harmful to the Minister's work. I always felt that Fine Gael supporters were damn bad shots and it might not be advisable to put them on this council.

By giving members of gun clubs or game councils some power to elect the advisory council, the Minister would be giving these organisations the encouragement they need so badly. Gun clubs in particular are doing tremendous work. They consist of people who are not simply interested in shooting at the week-ends, but whose chief interests are sport. They are not there to make money or profit. They are sportsmen who like a bit of fun and who like to give their prey a sporting chance.

It is unfortunate that only 12 per cent of licensed gun holders are members of gun clubs. I hope the Forestry and Wildlife Service will do everything in their power to encourage licensed holders to become members of gun clubs. Members of gun clubs do not content themselves with having a shot during the season. They do tremendous work in the destruction of vermin. Because of this, they should be given every possible encouragement and co-operation.

The destruction of vermin should be the number one priority. It has not been taken seriously over the years. The bounty on the fox, for example, has remained at 50p for the last 30 years. There is no bounty paid on grey crows or magpies. This is a pity. I hope the Minister will make provision to have bounties paid on magpies, and grey crows in particular. If he does, this should be paid by the game councils alone. Last year the Donegal Game Council paid out under £300 in bounties for greycrows. They collected this money by running a raffle. The Donegal Game Council made that specific contribution to the destruction of vermin by introducing that bounty. Their work should be recognised by the Department. The Minister should match their contribution. I would not agree that organisations of this kind should be given everything for nothing. Where it is found that an organisation, such as the Donegal Game Council, are doing important work, the Minister should give them the encouragement they deserve.

The Forestry and Wildlife Service has done tremendous work in the provision of sanctuaries. This should be extended and encouraged in the future. The Loch Fern sanctuary in County Donegal was opened last year and was a tremendous success. It was estimated that after the winter season there were three times more birds in the area than hitherto. This is a step in the right direction. Tremendous credit must go to the Forestry and Wildlife Service.

Gun club members are deeply concerned about poaching. A closer watch should be kept on the sale of game, particularly to hotels and other catering establishments. I do not know how this watch could be kept, but some steps should be taken to ensure that an establishment buying birds from poachers should be very heavily punished.

I support what Senator W. Ryan said about the fine. We have reached the stage where the poacher must be declared an enemy endangering this sport. If caught, the least he should pay is £50. Perhaps members of the Garda Síochána could help in this direction. There are many gardaí who are keen sportsmen. Perhaps the Minister should have a word with his colleague, the Minister for Justice, and endeavour, where possible, to have gardaí who are fond of a shot based in shooting districts. I have been told by people who shoot that in any area where a Garda is a member of a local gun club, the poacher is discouraged from overactivity.

Many points which I intend raising are more appropriate to Committee Stage. I ask the Minister to reconsider one point in particular. Section 26, subsection (3) reads:

The Minister may by order extend the period...provided that the period during which a prohibition under this section is to remain in force shall in no case exceed two months.

What section? Did the Senator say section 26?

Sorry, section 27. This has caused some concern. The Minister may prohibit because of severe weather the shooting of birds. It is true that woodcock and snipe react very badly during severe weather. While he may introduce this prohibition order for two months the very severe weather may disappear in a few days. By having this order for the two months, the shooting season would be over in most cases. It is my intention, on Committee Stage, to ask the Minister to change that period of two months to ten days. I presume that at the end of the ten days if the weather is still bad the Minister would have power to extend it for a further ten days. It is felt in sporting circles that this subsection, while it may be necessary at times, could cause inconvenience.

In conclusion, I should like to make one point. I cannot see any real check on the gun in this Bill. A person has to have a driver's licence to drive a car. Not alone does he have to have a driver's licence, but he must do a driving test. If he does not pass the test, he does not get the licence. An adult may walk into a Garda barracks and get a licence without knowing how to handle a gun. This is wrong. Furthermore, he must renew his licence at the end of the year. I am not aware of any provision which makes it obligatory on that person to ensure that his gun is in proper working order. Perhaps it is not possible to do that in this legislation, it may not even be the Minister's responsibility, but I think this question must be examined. I have gone to the barracks, got a licence for a shotgun and I know nothing about guns. A few weeks ago I lifted down my shotgun with the intention of firing at some crows who were eating my cabbage——

They were pigeons. Crows do not eat cabbage.

There were crows in my garden. Fortunately they flew away. I went outside and loaded the cartridges, closed the gun and a shot went off just as I closed it. The cartridge struck the tar in front of me. There could have been some of my own children quite near me. Had there been, there was every possibility of an accident.

The law should ensure that guns are inspected every year by an expert. It is wrong that people should be allowed to have a faulty gun in their possession. I was not aware that my gun was faulty. Had there been a serious accident, it would have been too late.

I would like to hear the Minister's comments on what knowledge a person should have on the working of a gun before he is given a licence. Perhaps the issue of licences for shotguns could be done through game councils or gun clubs. The responsibility to ensure that only people with reasonable experience should be issued with licences would rest with them.

I welcome the many useful provisions in the Bill. In common with Senator W. Ryan I hope to table some constructive amendments for Committee Stage and that the Minister will give them favourable consideration.

Business suspended at 6.05 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

This is an extremely complex Bill. It consists of 78 sections and five Schedules, 61 pages in all. I certainly agree with those who have said that one would hope to be most useful on Committee Stage of the Bill. I found the Minister's speech extremely helpful in understanding the Bill. I even thought that had we some form of the Minister's speech in time to enable Senators to think about it, we would have been able to make better contributions to the debate. In a Bill of this complexity it is rather difficult to see the wood for the trees and to grasp all the effects of the inter-related sections in the total policy envisaged. The Minister in his speech certainly helped me to better understand the outline of the wood.

I was very glad that the Minister in referring to the progress which has been achieved in this field mentioned the co-operation and assistance given by a number of voluntary organisations, of whom he mentioned, in particular, the Irish Wild Bird Conservancy, the regional game councils and their national associations, the Irish Deer Society and others. It was appropriate for the Minister to mention these societies and generalise on how much public policy can be assisted by voluntary work of interested persons with all the knowledge which these people have accumulated over the years that they have been associated with this work.

This sort of controversy has been going on for ten years at least and it has taken about seven years for the report, leading up to this legislation, to reach the Department of which the Minister is the present head. I am not sure if this is a bad thing if at the end of the day a very comprehensive Bill is presented to us. In relation to other fields, there is something to be said for not rushing ahead but waiting at least until your judgment tells you what ought to be the solution to the problems.

Although it is a comprehensive Bill, it is only the first big step towards what we will finally determine on, that is, a comprehensive measure, vesting in one Minister the duty of protecting and preserving all the different riches—natural and cultural —we have. Perhaps I can make my first point on the Bill by emphasising why I think it is only an intermediate measure and a first step. There must have been great anxiety and difficulty within the Government and the Departments which had varying kinds of interests on different aspects of even this part of our heritage—that is to say, the wildlife element—as to who was the appropriate person to be given this duty. It might have been the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries who was picked, but it is the developing, changing lifestyle of the modern human which has been the creator of a large number of the problems with which this Bill is trying to deal. Therefore, there would be this objection to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. It might have been the Commissioners of Public Works, because, if the Department of Lands have had their experience through the acquisition of estates over the years, with their particular knowledge relative to game, the Board of Works have been administering the national monuments and national parks, but against giving them this control there is the suggestion that they are also concerned with the greatest single cause—much more than, for example, overshooting—of the depletion of game and wildlife generally through the effect of arterial drainage schemes; so there is a difficulty there.

There is also the difficulty—which is why I say this Bill is an intermediate step—in having the responsibility invested in the Minister—I am referring to this particular corporation sole, not the Minister who is now reaching the decisions of that corporation—because of his Department's concern with forestry. In making this point which will lead on to a practical conclusion for the Bill, I should not like to say anything which would hold up the measure, because it is to be welcomed.

While it is true that deforestation has done damage to the wildlife, it is paradoxical that a particular type of afforestation which this State has been engaged in for many years through the Forestry and Wildlife Service has also done damage to wildlife. In case anyone would think that my opinion on this matter is to be anything other than something dependent upon the opinions of highly informed people, I will read a couple of quotations, which I do not often do, from a publication of the Council of Europe by Professor A. Noirfolise published in 1968 and the couple of quotations which I have marked talk about conifer afforestation which is the predominant type of afforestation which has been pursued here:

On account of their density and the thick layer of dead needles which accumulate on the ground, conifer plantations choke bushes, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. They thus eliminate the main source of food for game....

European hunting specialists agree that deciduous forests are much more suitable than conifers for producing abundant high quality game. They recommend reintroducing into conifer plantations deciduous shrubs and trees, whether in clusters or along the edges of woods, paths and fire-cuttings....

Statistics concerning aquatic fauna and flora indicate that the planting of conifers results in an impoverishment of aquatic life and a lowering of the biogenic capacity of water for fish....

The causes of biological impoverishment of running water are direct and indirect. One direct result is pollution because noxious substances released into the humus under conifers are carried along by rain down the slopes or by water welling up to ground level....

An indirect cause is the change in the habitat resulting from the plantation of conifers along river banks. The excessive shade eliminates aquatic plants which provide food or a support for animals and vegetable plankton and the grassy edges which hold many insects and their larvae—and these are the two main sources of food for fish. Furthermore, the choking of vegetation along the water edges tends to produce a crumbling of the banks and destroys the hideouts for trout in the roots of trees and the habitat of creatures that normally live in long grass.

When projects to plant conifers intensively are carried out with no concern for the protection of flora and fauna, the species of vegetation characteristic of an area may be totally destroyed. Many raised bogs with their peculiar flora and fauna and their rich store of fossil pollens —which was so important in the paleohistorical study of vegetation and climate—have already been damaged or destroyed by planting of this kind. Plantations of rare plants have disappeared suffocated by the shade....

...the situation may become dangerous if destructive insects and parasites settle. The appearance of larch rust followed close on the heels of the introduction of the larch in Western Europe and the damage it causes appears to be more serious than in the natural area of the species. Various examples of immigration by harmful insects have been noted in intensive conifer plantations. One need only mention the hylobe and certain types of shothole beetle found in the spruce or again the teneid moth of the larch, a native of the Alps. These mishaps are inevitable and must be combated; but it is quite possible that the preparation of vast areas of conifer plantations, sometimes on unsuitable soil, contributes considerably to the epidemic character of such destructive factors. It is therefore not entirely illogical to believe that the association of islands or interspersed areas of deciduous trees with conifers might well serve to check the propagation of pests and diseases.

There is very much more that I will not bother you with. The point of making these quotations is really to suggest that at this point in our development there is no obvious Department unencumbered with other interests such as inevitably the Department which has the care of forestry under it must be encumbered. We cannot get anyone; therefore this seems to be as good as another but it does mean that we have to see has the Bill got written into it provisions which are adequate to ensure that in the pursuit of afforestation policy the section of the Department of Lands which is concerned with wildlife will have some procedure built up whereby they will have a say on the effect of a particular afforestation policy on their concern for wildlife. There are clashes all over this field between the people who want to kill the predator and the people who want the vermin that the predator kills; the clashes between people who are interested in sport and the people who are interested purely in the preservation of wildlife, and of course the primary clash of all, between us, this species, mankind the greatest predator of them all in his commercial desire to make money out of it all.

Now we are affecting ecology by this Bill, and we must see that if we are rationally saying this is judged to be in the interests of man to preserve the richness that is involved in wildlife, if we have a procedure adequate to see that the policy of preservation is fully, adequately and properly pursued. That first point leads me on to the suggestion that, with regard to the very welcome provision for an advisory committee, the Minister should consider accepting a requirement to consult the advisory committee when making regulations, when considering a change of user of lands under his control as a Minister. The establishment of this advisory committee and the kind of powers it will have seems to me to be crucial to the success of this measure. I would urge the Minister to consider first of all the acceptance of an obligation to consult. We obviously cannot accept an obligation to accept their decisions or their recommendations. I would not welcome that and I do not urge it on the Minister, but I do urge his consideration of taking on the obligation to consult and even to extend that obligation, make it quite clear that it even relates to the question of the user of lands for afforestation purposes. I will be making a similar comment with regard to drainage later, so that it will be merely accepting a restraint in relation to one of his obligations in pursuit of one of his policies which, I would suggest, should be accepted by one of his colleagues likewise.

Crucial to the success of the Bill will be how well the advisory committee is selected. The Minister will have difficulty, whether it has got to be representative of all the national sporting and conservative authorities in the country, and they will have different interests. There will be the question of balancing the interests in the choice he makes, but it will also be necessary of course to see that there is a proper weighting of people with scientific knowledge on it. The pressures on the Minister will tend to produce an underweighting of scientific knowledge and an over-weighting of concerned amateurs. I think also he might consider that he should consult them even on administrative matters. Here I really require more information than I have got as to why there may be reluctance to accept an obligation to consult on administrative matters. There may be some fundamental theory here in regard to how our executive proceeds which I am not fully grasping.

To make a single point, it was suggested to me that the existing wildlife and game advisers do not have a sufficiently extensive training for the advice they have to give, and this might be one of the matters in which the advisory committee should have a right to initiate by the expression of a view that there should be, as it seems likely there will have to be, an increase in the number of scientifically trained staff. I do think that the acceptance of this obligation by the Minister, extension of the powers of the advisory committee to express views on even administrative matters, may prove even finally to be very useful for the Minister in bolstering and strengthening his position so that when he does make a decision he will have the public informed by these people's attention being directed to what the matter may be.

A key factor in this is going to be— and it is, I am sure, explaining why the Minister has reached a decision on one matter that ought to be mentioned —the acceptability of the Bill to the people. This society does not consist exclusively of people concerned with the preservation of wildlife and if there are restrictions that are felt to go too far, I can understand the Minister's position. For example, it relates to the question of why he has not chosen to recommend the acquisition of compulsory acquisition powers. This may be a judgment by the Minister that that will not be acceptable to the people and that he will have to live with the problems created by that non-acceptance. However, I believe his ability to sell the whole measure will be strengthened by the strengthening of the advisory committee.

In regard to the arguments against taking compulsory powers and the non-acceptability of them, the practical fact, as I understand it is that the compulsory powers in relation to national monuments and parks and in relation to forestry are very rarely used. This reflects the experience in the field. There may be no desire to use these compulsory powers but the very existence of them may make negotiations impossible. I have been written to on this and I cannot see any better course to adopt than to read out what my correspondent describes as the major criticism of a Bill which he otherwise largely welcomes.

Without compulsory purchase powers I can imagine endless considering and jockeying for position. Indeed, the only possible course of action might be to impose protective measures under a designation order so onerous that the owners would wish to sell rather than to comply. This itself is not satisfactory because either (1) the protective measures would have to be so vague and wide as to be unconstitutional; and in any case I object to giving a Minister power to create criminal offences which might arise in relation to the violation of protective measures; or (2) the protective measures would be fairly precise for the land owners to do something harmful to our life and not be prohibited, whereupon the whole cumbersome procedure of section 17 would have to begin again to amend the protective measures. In the meantime the landowners would be doing everything legal—and perhaps illegal, too —to get rid of the wildlife and so of the onerous protective measures.

Perhaps the Senator would give us the source of the quotation?

It is a representation which has been made to me. Perhaps I should not have presented is as a quotation but as a careful note of the representation which I have tried to read carefully. I am not personally satisfied that that particular view is the correct view, but I thought it right for the debate that the existence of this view should be communicated to this House, so that the Minister might express himself on it or give thought to the validity of the points being made.

As a compromise solution the Minister might think, if he does not want to take compulsory purchase powers for the acquisition of these unique areas, that he should do so where he would certify that what he wished to acquire was of internationally scientific value.

Could I mention, not taking it in the order in which it appears in the Bill, section 43, which relates to the obligation on the Commissioners of Public Works? Is the Minister satisfied that this is as far as he can go, that he cannot extend his powers to require the commissioners to apply to and consult with him even in the cases of schemes where copies had been exhibited in accordance with section 5 of the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945? I have been trying to get views from people, and I get different views as to what is adjudged right on this, but it has been suggested to me that if in subsection (2) you let out all the schemes that have been exhibited already, that, irrespective of the convenience to the commissioners of that exception, that the powers of the Minister to prevent drainage schemes, which I understand is the single source of damage to wildlife, being proceeded with in the form in which they are proposed are greatly reduced. I get different views on that and I think if the Minister can we should get some fuller view on it.

As I understand the Bill, the possession of a specimen which is illegally obtained is not an offence. For example, if you find a person in possession of a deer carcase in the close season there must be evidence that he shot it. In which case you really only can prevent his doing it if you meet him on his way home from the operation or if he can be found to have it for sale. This leads me to an observation with regard to section 73, where subsection (3) provides that a

search warrant under the section shall not authorise any person to enter a dwelling.

Does that not give complete protection to the poacher who can conduct his poaching from the comfort of his own home without danger of being caught by the operation of a search warrant? Or is again the difficulty the question of enforcement of a provision which is seen to be right to the people of the country? Is it therefore judged by the Minister that he must restrict himself in this way?

Fauna as defined seem to be wild animals in the State and there is no power taken here to protect species that might be rare and endangered in other countries. What is the difficulty? What is the objection to this? Could the Minister, in addition, tell me whether the international law relative to the Continental Shelf makes it possible to extend any of these provisions to the waters which are not territorial waters?

Section 17 of the Bill is an important section concerned to protect refuges for fauna. Why does this section or a like section not apply to flora? I am informed that there are more species of flora in danger of extinction than of fauna. What is the reason for not applying a like section to refuges for fauna?

Section 15 of the Bill relative to natural reserves on lands owned by the State applies to the seabed but not to the sea over the seabed. Divers by their diving operations can decimate an area being studied by a marine biologist.

With regard to the prohibited weapons it seems to me to be desirable that the more that can be put into the Bill with regard to rifles, for example, rather than left to regulation the better, from the point of view of the understanding of the ordinary citizen of his rights and of the ordinary member of the Garda Síochána as to what his duties are. It will be much easier for him, presumably, if in fact the matters referred to are dealt with in the Bill itself rather than left to regulations made subsequently. I may be wrong in this but I understand that this is statutory in the United Kingdom. It does not depend upon a regulation. There may be some objection to it but I would be grateful to know what the objection is.

The question of fines arises. Again, the Minister may have had a difficult decision to make with regard to this but presumably, it is a matter that is open for debate. Can we do anything to make some of these fines mandatory and include the forfeiture of cars and boats and whatever is being used in the poaching offences?

Senator McGlinchey raised a question which I had intended to raise, and that is if somebody is unsuitable for a game licence why should he have a gun licence? There have been a lot of international conventions on the preservation of wildlife. Could the Minister tell me if there are powers in this Bill which will mean that without further Acts of Parliament being necessary international conventions can be applied here? I perhaps do not know as much as I should about how we do these things in terms of the domestic law. I understand that an international convention does not become part of our law unless it is domestically enacted. I do not know whether you can domestically enact serious conventions by Ministerial order under a section providing for this, but if you could— particularly as I understand the EEC will press to get some of these conventions ratified by the Member States—it would seem desirable if it is legally possible to have a section in this Bill, which if enacted, could be used by Ministerial order to give effect to the treaty. There may be some objection in principle to that, but as a matter of convenience one could have it as an order which had to be debated in the Houses. Then the objection of overriding parliament, not providing for a proper debate, could be overcome. It would mean that the Minister would not have to be introducing a whole series of new Bills giving effect to these international conventions.

I have been informed that some years ago, before the Minister and his colleague in Justice had anything to do with it, a directive was given not to prosecute for trespassing in pursuit of game. I do not know whether this is true, but if true I think the Minister should consult with his colleague to see that in fact such a directive will be withdrawn and replaced by an entirely different course of action and policy.

I have nothing more to say about this except that when we do get to the Committee Stage of the Bill there will be quite a number of sections on which much will need to be said. If, in fact, the Minister is not going to have a compulsory acquisition section of any kind, we shall have to look very closely at the very interesting section 17 to see if this is as powerful as we can make it for realising the good policy which in general is to be found in this most welcome Bill.

I too, would like to join with previous speakers in welcoming this Bill. I know that much work, effort and education have gone into framing this Bill in various Departments over a number of years. We all hope that the implementation of this legislation will ensure that wildlife, both animal and plant, will be preserved for future generations. It is not legislation only for animal or plant: people are also deeply concerned because the future of the nation in the wildlife sense will be clearly illustrated in this legislation. I personally feel that mankind has control in regard to environment and it will get up to all of us to ensure that this legislation is properly implemented.

Industrial development in particular has caused great concern in regard to wildlife. We are a young country from an industrial point of view. We have to take into consideration what has happened in many industrialised countries in regard to wildlife, both plant and animal. Since we obtained the independence of our State we have really failed to put into effect the laws that were there previously. This Bill amalgamates many of the laws we already had and involves additional laws. It is up to every individual in the State to abide by those laws and to ensure that wildlife, animal and plant, are preserved.

Industrial progress has created some problems but the problems are not confined to industry. We have improved in other ways. Sewage and effluents have created direct problems with regard to wildlife. Action has been taken to an extent within the framework of the laws that we had but I feel certain that this action is not sufficient. Through this legislation we may be in a position to ensure that direct and proper action is taken.

The Minister pointed out that there had been inter-departmental discussion in regard to what lines of consultation and action would be taken. This is a good thing because there are so many Departments involved. There should be full departmental co-operation to ensure that the law we now have before us can be put into effect.

We also have enormous progress on the agricultural front. Here again, I feel that we have grave problems to meet in connection with that progress. I think Senator Ryan pointed out earlier in the debate that only one corncrake was heard in Tipperary this year. I think this is due to the fact that so much of our land is under silage. It is directly sensed that the silarators are the cause of the corncrakes being so scarce. Through this Bill, or amendments suggested to the Minister, something could be done to ensure that a guard-rail be provided on the silarator which could possibly improve the situation.

Arterial drainage had a direct effect on the conservation of our wet lands to ensure that duck shooting particularly was preserved. More positive action towards this end involving the farmers themselves, is called for. Most of our farmers are anxious to preserve wildlife and co-operation and some financial aid regarding arterial drainage and such methods of improving the land could ensure that the environment for wildlife is maintained. It is not an easy problem to solve but we must all give it consideration. Different Departments can be concerned with it and through proper involvement and co-operation much could be done.

Part II, section 12 of the explanatory memorandum indicates that the Department of Public Works would consult with the Department of Lands before taking decisions on projects. It is to be hoped that these consultations would lead to the elimination or at least the reduction of such potential damage. Reduction is not enough; we should apply ourselves to the total elimination of the potential damage. I doubt if enough has been done in the past in this direction. Through this legislation something more could perhaps be done.

There are the unsung heroes of conservation—the people who have given over their lands to preserve and conserve wildlife. This Bill confers a status on those people as regards protection of these reserves. That is my reading of the Bill anyway. This is very essential. Those who donate their land, in a sense, for the preservation of wildlife should be assisted financially through some Department to ensure that this aim can be achieved.

RTE should be complimented on their programmes on wildlife. From looking at those programmes in the past I have learned a good deal. Such programmes educate our young people to have an involvement and give them the desire to ensure that wildlife is preserved.

In the Bill the Minister seeks funds for the promotion of public knowledge and understanding of wildlife matters. Much can be done in this direction. Most of us are ignorant about involvement with wildlife, both plant and animal.

I think it was Senator Harte who said that he supported the anti-blood sport lobby. I think the onus is on me as a Member of this House, being a follower of coursing and being involved in a coursing club, to explain the position at this stage in regard to hares. I do not deny the fact that there are some people involved in the anti-blood sport lobby who have certain feelings in regard to coursing; that is their own frame of mind and thought. But I think that I, as a supporter of coursing, should say something in this regard.

I am glad to know from this legislation that the Minister has conferred on the coursing clubs the right to preserve the hare species because it is stated that these clubs have the right to collect hares for coursing meetings, to course them and return them to their normal environment. There is mention in the legislation of a particular type of council involving the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and other Departments. It is provided that there would be consultation with semi-State bodies in regard to the forming of this council. I would advise the Minister that Bord na gCon should be involved in this council.

The hare species is getting very rare. As Senator Ryan said earlier, there are parts of the country where the hare is almost wiped out. This is not due to the coursing clubs because they have been through the years the preserver of the hare species. That is recognised in this legislation. There is the importance of the greyhound industry which is a very thriving industry and one that has been very ably promoted particularly since the involvement of Bord na gCon. Many small farmers, particularly in the south, have vastly supplemented their incomes through the rearing of greyhounds. We have to look at that effect from a rational point of view. While people in the anti-blood sport lobbies may have some case in regard to the hunting and coursing of hares. I, being an enthusiast in regard to greyhound racing, will defend the coursing of hares. As I pointed out, the coursing clubs are the preservers of the hare species.

They nurtured the species and ensured that the hare is there to be coursed. There is an involvement of trapping and in coursing in the training of greyhounds. It is not possible to have one without the other. It is essential to the greyhound industry that coursing be maintained, because to breed the proper tracking greyhound which would bring in the money it is essential that there is this coursing training.

The coursing enthusiast does not want to see any hare killed, but to ensure that the hare is free after a course. Some coursing meetings may not have been properly run in the past.

Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club are tackling this to ensure that they are run properly in the future. There is a tendency among the anti-blood sport lobby to let loose hares that have been netted, very well fed and cared for in connection with coursing club meetings, with the coursing club maintaining two or three men to look after them and ensure their proper treatment. This could be cruelty if the coursing field concerned is very close to a town. Indeed, many more of those hares could be abused and killed on account of such action. I am glad to note that this legislation deals with this aspect in regard to the greyhound industry. It gives the coursing clubs the right to collect hares and aims at ensuring that those hares are properly treated and properly coursed. Indeed the coursing enthusiast always welcomes the fact that a hare escapes at a coursing meeting.

In regard to the conservation of the hare species, I should like to point out to the Minister that it is wide open at the present time for the hare to be shot at a range of ten or 15 yards by foreign groups who come here for a shooting exercise. On Committee Stage I hope to ensure that this will not happen. When we speak about torture and neglect we should think not alone in coursing terms but in other terms in regard to the hare. It is a senseless situation that a hare can be shot at all. As I said earlier, there are various counties where the hare is almost extinct. It is the Irish Coursing Club plus Bord na gCon who are presently preserving the hare species, and will continue to do so.

They do not seem to be doing a very good job.

A very good job? As I tried to point out to the Senator it is not the coursing clubs or Bord na gCon who have created a scarcity in the hare species. It believe that progress in the agricultural sector, particularly, has brought it about. If the Irish Coursing Club or Bord na gCon were asked to give statistics in regard to the number of hares caught, coursed and released, this would be proved in no uncertain manner. As I pointed out, the greyhound industry depends on coursing. To some people who are not well informed in regard to the greyhound industry, this might not seem right. I do not claim to be an authority on this but I know that vast sums are involved in the greyhound industry and its promotion at present. It is essential that coursing be maintained. The people involved in the anti-blood sport lobbies have their rights and feelings but I have mine also. As one directly involved in the greyhound industry and as a supporter of coursing, I feel it is up to me to state that openly in this House. If it is left to the Irish Coursing Club and Bord na gCon, the hare species will be in safe hands.

There are many points which can be raised on Committee Stage in regard to this legislation. I hope to have something to say then. There is much more involved in this Bill than I have mentioned. I hope when this legislation becomes law that people will live up to their own responsibilities. We are legislating for animals and plant life but it is the people who will put this legislation into effect.

I should like to join with other Senators who have given a generous welcome to this Bill. It is a long and complex but very necessary measure. As the Minister admitted, it is long overdue. It comes at an appropriate time, when conservation of all branches of our heritage is receiving attention. There is a growing realisation that, if positive steps are not taken by this generation to conserve and preserve our national treasures, natural and man-made, in a world becoming more and more obsessed with technological progress and the pleasures of material progress, irreparable damage will be done to our heritage.

It is only right that we should avail of every opportunity to advance the material well-being of our people by instructing them in the use of scientific and technical means to advance their welfare. However, as legislators we have a duty to ensure that the material advances in our society go hand-in-hand with the preservation of the heritage of our society which is the hallmark of a civilised people. When talking about the preservation of our heritage, both natural and man-made, it is encouraging to note the concern the younger generation have for the possible destruction of the remains of Viking constructionists at Wood Quay and the shocking destruction of our Georgian buildings in Dublin and other cities. This depredation would have passed unnoticed a couple of years ago.

It is encouraging that more and more people are becoming aware of the duty we have to preserve the gifts that have been handed down to us from past generations. With this desire to conserve and preserve must come the urgent necessity to preserve the wildlife in the country, both fauna and flora. We have a remarkable heritage of both and they are part and parcel of this lovely land of ours. It would be a tragedy if positive steps were not taken to preserve these amenities, not only for our own people but for the pleasure of visitors coming from abroad.

The Minister paid a generous tribute to the work done by various voluntary organisations. They deserve every possible plaudit for the way in which they have worked, through game clubs and other organisations, to preserve wildlife, both fauna and flora. As the Minister realises, voluntary efforts on their own cannot possibly carry out this task. It is right and proper and a most welcome step to bring within the ambit of the Minister's Department almost all the agencies of the State and local authorities concerned with the preservation of wildlife. This Bill gives a statutory basis to the efforts of the various organisations both voluntary and State to carry out their task. It will be an encouragement to further efforts by all concerned to continue the good work.

I wish to pay tribute to the voluntary gun clubs and game councils throughout the country. They have worked very hard and, with the limited funds at their disposal and the help they received from the Department, they have played a major part in preserving wildlife in various parts of the country. I am aware of the efforts made by gun clubs in my own county. They have managed on a shoe-string budget to do quite remarkable work. They are doing it not for any material gain but because they wish to preserve pheasants and other wild fowl and to see that they have an opportunity of flourishing.

Perhaps we do not fully appreciate the remarkable heritage of wildlife extant in the country. Is sufficient attention being given to inculcating into the younger generation a love and appreciation of wildlife? Strictly speaking this is a matter of education but, with co-operation of the Departments of Lands and Education more could be done to make young people aware of the wonderful heritage in their own country. It should be possible to organise on a wider scale visits by school classes to forests, to preserves of wildlife, both flora and fauna, such as the Burren in County Clare. If young people learned an appreciation of these things they would remember them all the days of their lives. The influence of young people on adults is very often underestimated. In this particular instance a concerned younger generation could play a very significant part in helping to treasure and preserve our heritage of wildlife.

Although it is the Minister's intention to appoint special persons to ensure that the intentions of the Bill are carried out and penalties will be incurred if illegal use is made of firearms or trespass, unless we have a concerned public, young and old, who wish to preserve wildlife, the Minister's good intentions cannot hope to be carried out. The best guarantee of the success of this Bill is to ensure that everybody, particularly the younger people, are fully informed of the heritage of wildlife. It is sad to see trespassing, poaching and illegal shooting in the off-seasons being carried on. Some of this may be done unthinkingly, without proper appreciation of the damage being done. If there was a full appreciation of the damage done by shooting birds out of season and fishing out of season it would not be done.

Even though it does not come within the ambit of his Department, I should like to impress on the Minister the absolute necessity of co-operating with the Minister for Education and teachers in encouraging our young people to love, appreciate and preserve wildlife.

As the Minister mentioned in his speech, we are living in a society which is becoming more and more urbanised. Cities, particularly the larger ones, are stretching out their boundaries year by year; encroachments are being made of what were formerly habitats of wildlife of various kinds. It is essential that local authorities, both city and county, are made fully aware of their responsibility in this regard. It would be a tragedy if, in the name of progress, we were to destroy this part of our natural heritage without appreciating fully the damage being done. We must balance our sense of values. Progress can be destructive as well as an advancement. I am very pleased to see written into the Bill the obligation on local authorities to consult the Minister's Department before any depredations are done to wildlife habitats within their area of jurisdiction. There must be millions of people living in large cities who have never seen some of the wildlife listed in the Schedule to this Bill. The mere fact that we have a plentiful supply of wildlife should be an added inducement to preserve it and this to encourage tourists to come and see it.

I should also like, as other Senators have done, to welcome the setting up of the Wildlife Advisory Council, but I would emphasise again that education and propaganda be included in its objectives. Instead of setting up boards, as the Minister has provided for in his Bill, why not have regional councils? These councils would be associated with the national council. If it could be organised on this scale it would give a greater integrity and closer association between regional boards and the national council.

I hope the Minister will continue, through the aegis of this Bill, to give every encouragement, including financial help, to the wildfowl clubs who are doing an excellent job in the breeding and distribution of wildfowl stock throughout their areas. I am also very pleased that the Minister proposes to consult the various voluntary organisations throughout the country. This is a very good example of open government—if I can use that hackneyed phrase. I am glad that the Minister is prepared to listen to people who have given long years of service in this area. Some of these people, although they may not have any high-sounding letters after their names, have practical experience and understand about the breeding and distribution of wildfowl.

It has been suggested to me, and I mention it to the Minister in passing, that due to the fact that pheasants tend to lay later the open season for shooting them might be shortened from November-January to December-January each year in order to give the young and green pheasants a few more weeks to become stronger. The same birds will be as available in December as in November but they will be stronger and better able to fend for themselves. I am not an expert on this matter but I have been advised by some of the people interested in this study that the reason for this phenomenon has been the mild winters which we have been experiencing for some years past.

The Bill in one of its sections provides for the prevention of damage to wildlife by land drainage operations. There is no mention of land filling. I do not know if it comes automatically under the obligation on local authorities to consult the Minister and his Department but it may be a possible loophole which might be sealed off.

Finally, I should like to mention one species of wildfowl which is not mentioned in the Schedule to this Bill, and that is the famous barnacle goose about which the story goes that a deputation of Kerrymen went to see a past pope and got his permission to include it in the list of fish and similar game that could be eaten on a Friday—those were the days when we fasted and abstained. Whatever about the basis of that story, the barnacle goose should be included in the Minister's list of wildfowl to be preserved.

Parts of this Bill could be more usefully discussed at Committee Stage. I wish to congratulate the Minister for introducing the Bill. I hope it will have the desired effect. I wish to emphasise again that all the rules, regulations, Acts of the Oireachtas and the presence of gardaí and inspectors will not ensure that the purpose of this Bill is carried out unless we have a sympathetic and informed public who are fully aware of our heritage and who want to preserve it for present and future generations.

I should like to welcome this Bill in broad terms but with one or two reservations, especially on the matter of certain bloodsports, which I shall make clear later on in my speech. In particular, I should like to give some attention, although not in any amount of detail to section 26 which deals with certain legislative provisions with regard to hunting. I shall come back to this point later, but I should like to stress again my overall welcome for the Bill and the aims which it sets out in the matter of preservation of wildlife.

I would point out that there are not only aesthetic reasons for preserving this, that or the other species—there are very important scientific reasons as well. As Senator Russell said there is a growing appreciation, not just of the aesthetic but of the scientific value of this kind of legislation. It is becoming accessible to people who are often termed, in a rather patronising way, ordinary people. When I say in a rather patronising way I am saying that people who use the term generally imply that they themselves are anything but ordinary. Of course we are all ordinary people and, to the extent to which we have access to this newfound reservoir of scientific fact and natural history, we must be grateful. It is a heritage which we should do all in our power to preserve.

I went home this evening by bus and passing the area known as the slob in Booterstown there were large quantities of wild fowl swimming there, literally only dozens of feet away from some of the heaviest traffic in the city at that particular time of the evening. I have often seen that particular sight and it seems like a kind of miracle. I have often thought, with a sense of fear, that this kind of miracle will not be allowed to exist for very much longer, that it is under threat. If this Wildlife Bill before us at the moment goes some distance towards giving these kind of miracles a permanence in our society I think it will more than repay the efforts put into it. I remember on another occasion lying on the cliffs in Fair Head in County Antrim—they are 700 feet high—looking out over the edge and seeing about 200 feet below a golden eagle flying. This is the kind of nature the Bill is designed to protect. I do not think we can go far enough— finance, of course, permitting—in protecting the splendid things that are to be found in our countryside and all over Ireland.

In passing I might perhaps refute one point made by Senator Martin, who said that if rabbits had votes this Bill would be passed a long time ago. It is my reading of this Bill—it may be inaccurate—that rabbits are vermin in the context of this Bill. Indeed one might take the opposite point and say that if rabbits had votes this Bill would never be passed. This is just to set the record straight in the matter of rabbits.

In connection with the more particular provisions of the Bill, I should like to draw attention to and praise the establishment of a wildlife council. When this is set up and is functioning for some time I imagine it will have a major social, educative and scientific effect on the community and in connection with the preservation of wildlife generally.

There are one or two areas, however, where this Bill is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. It is a major Bill. It goes to enormous lengths to codify and to consolidate as much as possible of the area connected with wildlife but there are still one or two other areas which are totally outside the purview of the Minister and which are not brought under his purview by the Bill. The main one that occurs to me is fishing. It seems to me that fish must be regarded as part of wildlife. It cannot be described in any other way. Certainly this applies to fish in fresh water. There is nothing essentially different between a salmon and a pheasant and it would be my wish that a Bill like this would sort out administratively the present system that leaves a certain amount of control over this area to other agencies. I should not like to be thought of as supporting the Minister in poaching anything from another Minister but a good case can be made for bringing fishery protection under the scope of a Bill like this.

In the Bill itself, and indeed in the Minister's Second Reading speech, there are indications of goodwill in this matter together with a very clear statement of the limitations of the Bill. For example, reference has been made in various points in the Bill and in the Minister's speech to the activities connected with river drainage and the effect these activities may have on areas connected with wildlife. The one area which, of course, the Bill does not deal with and which apparently it cannot deal with is the rivers themselves. What we need urgently in some quarters at the moment is a re-evaluation of many of our drainage schemes, of their control and the control of pollution in our rivers. Ideally this should be carried on by the sort of agency that has an overall responsibility for wildlife in the country. In saying this I may be shouting against the wind because there is not very much likelihood of the Bill ever being amended satisfactorily to bring fresh water fishing under its purview but I believe that it would be more logical and more sensible if at some future date it could happen.

The reservations which I mentioned in the beginning that I wanted to make were primarily in connection with the section on hunting and within that section, primarily in relation to coursing and otter hunting. I must apologise for having interrupted Senator Cowen during the course of his remarks, but while he alleged very strongly that the function of coursing clubs was to preserve the hare and that the declining numbers of hare in this country were in no way related to the activities of the coursing clubs, I thought he failed to give any explanation of any weight that might point the finger at any other cause for the decline of the hare population in this country. This is a point that has to be taken very very seriously by anybody who is interested in this particular matter.

On the whole question of blood sports, I find myself most of the time in several minds. I occasionally fish. I would regard fishing as a blood sport. I imagine that there are other sports which I could approve of which could also be called blood sports in the sense that any sport which involves the killing of an animal is a blood sport. It is one thing to say that but it is another thing to say that because killing an animal can be all right— and it can be all right—that, therefore, all activities which involve the killing of animals ipso facto are all right. This is a logical absurdity which would be caught by, I suspect, anybody in his fifth or sixth year at school these days. It is the logical fallacy of saying that because crows are birds and because crows are black, therefore, all birds are black. This is a line of reasoning which is specious and which deserves to be challenged.

With the whole spectrum of blood sports I would single out one or two as especially reprehensible, and the first of those seems to me to be coursing. I have been to one coursing meeting in my life. I did not get very close to what might be described as the action. It did not at all appeal to me. I thought it was a rather gruesome and disgusting exhibition. This may be put down by other Senators to my squeamish character but if it is I would say that there are a lot of other people with squeamish characters in this country at the moment and perhaps having a squeamish character in this area is nothing especially to be ashamed of.

It seems to be now, and I have read a lot since that day quite a few years ago when I went to my first and my only coursing meeting that the evidence which has mounted in the coursing area for a totally new look at this activity is becoming more and more compelling. I would like to stress it is not just because the hare is a furry little animal which has an affectionate sort of image in the general public mind. I think it goes very much deeper than this. Coursing is not just dogs killing a hare and men betting on the dogs. Coursing it seems to me is one of the oldest expressions of the very ambiguous relationship that exists between men and animals. It is not a very pleasant expression of that relationship but it is a very old one. For example, in popular mythology the hare is almost as old and as powerful a symbol as any that I know of. It has been associated with all sorts of things. It is traditionally associated with the moon, for example, with fire and perhaps especially with fertility. I would just like to read a very short extract to demonstrate this from a book by George Ewart Evans and David Thomson called The Leaping Hare. It is a quotation from one of our own folklorists, Seán Ó Súilleabháin, who collected it sometime after 1930. He relates two Irish stories in a volume called The Liar. The Liar is a fairly common story in folk mythology. This version of it relates how the hero of the story tells the king how he and his father were once planting all of Ireland under oats. It is one of these Baron Munchausen type of stories in which the absurdities and the extravagances and the exaggerations are introduced for enormous effect. Here of course what we are looking at is not the effect of the exaggerations, extravagances and absurdities but the way in which they are used to highlight this particular aspect of the hare, its symbolism of increase and fertility. In this part of the story the oats have been sown and the hero and his mother go out to start reaping the oats:

I got up and my mother and myself took two long slender sharp sickles and started to reap the oats. We had only a little reaped up when up started a hare in front of me in the oats. I drew my hook at him and the tip of it got stuck into the heel of the hare. Up ran the hare west through Ireland and back again going from side to side and the hook behind him and he reaping the oats. I started to bind the oats he had reaped and I set my mother to make stooks of it, and to make a long story short little Ireland and big Ireland were reaped by the hare, tied into sheaves by myself and stooked by my mother by evening.

This is an example, as I said, of the close ambiguous mythical relationship which exists between man and animals in general and between man and the hare in particular. It is true also, as far as I am aware, that the expression of this relationship in hare coursing is as old as the mythology itself. There is certainly some evidence to show that the trapping of hares and the keeping of them in enclosures for purposes of sport were practised certainly as long ago as in ancient Egypt.

It is one thing to say that man's relationship with animals and with the hare is a long standing one and that coursing is one of those ancient sports of which we are aware. We must also ask ourselves, perhaps especially at this time, what is happening now. Is what is happening now, as I believe it is, something which should force us to look again at coursing in our society? There are an increasing number of people who believe that what is happening requires us to do this. Not all of them by any means are opponents of blood sports or indeed of hare coursing in particular.

One of them featured in literature which has been made available to me by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports—I make no apology for mentioning them and expressing my gratitude to them in this context—was made by Con Houlihan, a Kerry journalist, a man I know, a man for whose journalism and skill I have a very great personal and professional regard. Two years ago, in November, 1973, he wrote of a particular meeting he attended. About one hare in every three was killed and most of them suffered a terrible death because there were few stewarts in that part of the field where the hare is usually captured. It happened even on a few occasions that after the hounds had been made to release their unfortunate quarry he limped pathetically towards the escape and nobody bothered to put an end to his suffering. Even those hares that were still alive at the end of the meeting were not allowed to return to their native fields. They were coursed again and again in trials until all were killed.

That meeting could hardly be called a sporting occasion. If all meetings were like it, coursing should be outlawed. Not only was terrible cruelty condoned but the country for miles around was denuded of one of its most beautiful inhabitants. That is the statement of a man who supports coursing carried out in proper conditions, reformed somewhat from the conditions in which they are at present being carried out. It is almost unnecessary, when we have witnesses like this, of this standing, from among people who support coursing, to turn to the natural outrage of the people who for all sorts of very good reasons are fundamentally opposed to the sport in principle.

In this Bill we are asked effectively to allow a continuation of a situation in which coursing is under the effective control of the Irish Coursing Club. The reports, figures and observations which have been made available to me—not all of which I would accept as strict evidence and indeed not all of which could be accepted as strict evidence in the eyes of the law —convince me that the time has come to ask whether the stewardship over hare coursing that is being given to the Irish Coursing Club is being carried out in the proper way. Is there or is there not here a betrayal of trust? Is there or is there not a derogation from the kind of responsibility that has been placed on the Irish Coursing Club by past legislation and indeed by this legislation as well?

Something is very rotten. Something very odd and very unpleasant is going on. It is not enough to say that the best way to ensure that things improve is to leave things the way they are. All the evidence is going to show that, if anything, things will definitely get worse. In so far as coursing is concerned I might add the chief effect that one can foresee of things getting worse and of hares getting scarcer is that the amount of cruelty that is caused to the unfortunate hares that remain will increase—there will be a higher, if I may use the expression, per capita quotient of cruelty.

There is this which is special to me about live hare coursing which does not attach to any other sport. That is that in most other sports of which I am aware the chase is a chase of wild animals in their natural habitat. Live hare coursing must be the only one in which the live animal is coursed not in its natural habitat but removed from its natural habitat and hunted in a situation which is not by any remote stretch of the imagination its natural habitat. It may be a bit extreme perhaps to talk of torture in situations like this, but I find it very hard to think of a better word.

If a case can be made, and perhaps indeed it can and has been made in the past, that the hare is actually a pest, that there are situations, as I believe there are in France and Britain, where hares can cause substantial damage of crops— farmers have been known to say, for example that ten hares will eat as much as one sheep; you do not see sheep loose in your fields so there is no reason why you should let hares loose there either—it is one thing to say that hares are pests, it is another thing to say that because they are pests you are entitled to treat them in this abominable fashion.

I would ask the Minister in the ongoing consideration of this Bill to see whether something can be done to rectify the situation. If it cannot be done under the aegis of the Irish Coursing Club then it should be done under some other aegis, either that of the Minister himself or some other body. I do not know, but at least the possibility should be explored.

The other area which I think I should like to express a major reservation about is in the matter of otter hunting. It has not been proved to my satisfaction that otters are pests. It is even unproven that they do very serious damage to fisheries. When we consider that in any case most of the fisheries in this country are the preserves of landed gentlemen who do not reside here and will presumably, if they can manage it, also avoid paying taxes here, we should give the otters a chance. As a fisherman myself I would be happy to make a present of anything I might catch to an otter for his lunch and not feel that I had been cheated out of anything.

There are other points of detail in the Bill which I do not propose to go into now but I propose, hopefully, to bring them up on Committee Stage. The only one I would make an exception of is the matter raised by Senator McGlinchey, that is the very interesting section on page 17 of the Minister's speech which effectively turns trespass into a criminal activity, if the trespasser is engaged in hunting without the permission of the owner of the property.

By and large, I am in support of this provision, but I would again draw the Minister's attention to the fact that there may be problems in definition here. There may be quite a few problems in resulting law cases. For example, if I owned a farm it would be, after this Bill becomes law, possible for me to instigate or at least ask the police to instigate a prosecution against anybody who was crossing my land with a gun without my permission. It would not be possible for me to instigate a prosecution or to ask the police to instigate a prosecution against anybody who was crossing my lands with a fishing rod, or indeed even if he were carrying a net or even two sticks of dynamite preparing to throw them into the pool or the river around the corner provided he was legally in possession of the dynamite.

There are anomalies here, and while I am very appreciative of the Minister's attempt to tighten things up and to reduce poaching, any attempt that he makes to remove loopholes in the Bill during its passage through this House might well improve it.

Ultimately I should like to point out to the House that we in the second House of a deliberative assembly in this island have a chance to take a stand on the question of live hare coursing. The other House which took such a stand some years ago was the House of Commons in the then Parliament of Northern Ireland in Stormont, when a Private Members' Bill to outlaw hare coursing was introduced. It was introduced twice in the House of Commons there and passed twice. Then it was sent from there to the Senate where it languished for a time and was eventually shelved. It was interesting, not least because that Bill, both in the House of Commons and in the Senate of Northern Ireland but more especially in the Senate, was one of the few pieces of legislation introduced in those Houses at that time which managed to divide people on lines other than the traditional orange and green. In the Senate especially you had Nationalist and Unionist Senators walking into the lobby side by side to support that Bill. For the edification of the House, I should like to quote one extract from the Commons Debates, Parliament of Northern Ireland, Volume 82, for 26th October, 1971. The speaker was the Rev. Ian Paisley:

After very careful consideration of the practice of hare coursing, I have come to the decision from my own personal investigations that there is cruelty connected with this particular type of sport. I have not come to this decision quickly or in any emotional sense because many of my constituents, I understand, engage in this particular sport. I have therefore had to come to it deliberately and with careful consideration. I have now come to the decision, whether it be right or wrong, that there is a great measure of cruelty connected with this sport and, therefore, I feel that this House has a duty and can show the way in this particular matter.

But there are other blood sports in this community that also have a strong measure of cruelty and that are engaged in not by the people who are engaged in hare coursing but by those who look upon themselves as being in another strate of society. They are equally to be condemned, and I trust that this measure will not be one that will simply deal with live hare coursing and that that will be the end of the matter. I hope that those who are interested in this particular field will have a look at other blood sports which are engaged in by certain of the aristocracy or would-be aristocracy of this community. The Chief Whip does not need to look so sad, for I am not particularly referring to him, but I want to make it perfectly clear that the representations that have been made to me have been made by people who say that this has been a sport of the working classes, of the ordinary people of the community, and that they now are going to be deprived of it while those who can hunt the stage with the hounds across the countryside will still be permitted to engage in what can only be described also as a cruel sport.

Those are points that should be put on the record, but I feel very strongly that when this House makes a decision then that decision should be abided by.

Finally, I would remind this House that 250 years ago almost to this day it was another Irish member of another parliament, the Parliament of Westminster, who was the first parliamentarian to protest against the maltreatment of animals, to protest against the wanton cruelty which was meted out to animals in his day, as indeed it is in ours. That was Richard Martin who stressed, 250 years ago, in 1824, that there was a world of difference between hunting to kill and baiting to torture. That is a difference which I submit is still rampant today.

I join with other Senators in congratulating the Minister for this long overdue and very necessary piece of legislation. I also join with those who in the debate so far have said that this legislation, The Wildlife Bill, 1975, has to be considered in the wider context of legislation on the environment. Indeed to my mind it must have been very difficult for the Government, for the Minister, to decide where to start in this area.

There are those who would say that what we need is a basic document or a basic legislative instrument on the environment and then a series of particular legislative expressions in special areas, for example, in the area of wildlife, in the area of pesticides, in the area of clear waterways and so forth.

Be that as it may, the Bill is a very welcome one. Commenting on legislation in this area, a curious development appears now to have been adverted to by most speakers so far, that is, the manner in which life has been perceived as a balance in an eco system—that is, a balance in which man's actions are taken and their consequences considered not only for man himself but for life species in general.

Of course, people refer to this in development frequently in a patronising way suggesting that younger people are more generous, more concerned now than older generations. I do not agree with this attitude. I think that previous legislation reflected a very interesting division, a division between a social system and a natural system. Human behaviour was taken as necessarily preceding and definitively prior in its consequences to natural conditions. Put crudely, nature in general has been made to fit man's expression, man's assertion. The Minister adverts to this in his speech when he speaks of a relationship between technology and society. I think he makes a valid point. He states:

Apart altogether from any question of international obligations, however, the need for effective legislative machinery in the field of wildlife conservation is greatest when looked at from the standpoint of what is required at national level. While it is true that technological developments and increased urbanisation have already produced some detrimental effects on our heritage of wild fauna and flora, it is not yet by any means too late to embark on a positive, energetic conservation programme to safeguard that heritage for future generations.

Here, of course, the Minister is an optimist. There are those who would not have such an optimistic view. There are those who would not share the view expressed by Senator Russell that we still have time to repair the environmental havoc of the march of urbanisation process, of our technological development, of our industrialisation processes.

It seems to me that here we encounter a point which is frequently missed. It is as if having made mistakes we could set things right by changing course. We cannot do this. What we need now is not merely to change course but, as I said, to realise that human life is balanced for its survival within the context of thousands of species of life. We know now, if science has taught us anything, that we have been as occupiers of this planet, probably the most irresponsible of all species towards other forms of life. The legislative response, therefore, has been of an unquestionable kind: what will we allow? what shall we do now? I remember in the United States the same kind of argument being presented when legislation of this kind was being discussed. People were discussing a motorway in terms of its consequences not its ecological necessity in the first place.

All life depends on other forms of life. The most dignified form of life is when that principle is at the core of one's philosophy. It has always been the other way: what will we allow? People have been speaking almost in a melancholy fashion about the disappearance of the hare. What will go next? Is it not time we did something about hares they ask. It was announced that salmon and trout were in danger and was it not time we did something? We should philosophically set ourselves correct at the very outset on these questions.

I do not subscribe to the view that it is an accident in history that this great travesty of the environment has taken place. I believe that this took place because we interfered artifically for the benefit of elite-greed in ordering our affairs both material and non-material. I think it was Thomas Hardy who said, when he was describing human migration from the villages in England at the end of the last century, that it was rather like forcing water to flow uphill rather than run down. Technology, the instrument of profits, demanded that people move from where they had been born and lived, be moved to the centre of profit-creation.

There is a lesson in it for people like myself who come from an area of beauty still unspoiled, beauty that is available now to those who have destroyed perhaps irrevocably their own environments, the people for whom—if I might use another descriptive phrase of Hardy—for whom living in the west of Ireland, "might have represented an encounter with a great spirit of place". They have been forced away from the experience of that great natural beauty.

As we begin to discuss a Bill like this it is good to be reflectively honest about it all. I am, perhaps, a pessimist. I do not believe in, nor ever subscribed to, the idea that you could adjust the environment after you had allowed uncontrollable profit-maximising industrialisation to develop. Therefore, I am not what would be regarded by some scholars as a technological determinist. There are certain feelings at the present time among writers that most of the problems of our society are not brought about by the great division between those who produce and those who control wealth but by technology itself. As I mentioned last week in my speech on the Broadcasting Bill, I believe that technology is instrumental.

I found one passage most interesting in the Minister's speech. It is a sensitive point for which I pay tribute to the Minister. That is where he agrees to the great importance that attaches to education. He states:

I referred briefly to educational aspects of wildlife conservation. It is perhaps as well to make it clear that my concern in this sphere is not so much with education in the formal sense, with which my Department are not directly concerned, but rather with the broader question of encouraging a greater degree of public understanding and appreciation of nature conservation generally—and of wildlife values in particular.

This is a fascinating point. Again, the same society of which I spoke makes the distinction between formal education and non-formal education in which we might acquire, for example, wildlife values. It was society as we allow it that made that division necessary. There are older people in Seanad Éireann and they will remember a time: I remember it in my own experience when I attended a small national school in County Clare. There was a very brilliant elderly man teaching there, William Clune, whose view on education was that we should know the names of all the plants and insects not alone in English but in Irish. We know incidentally that there is a much wider range of titles for plants in Irish than in English. That man regarded it as a natural part of our education that we would enter into this diginified relationship with our environment. If something was encountered at home it was encountered also in the school.

But here comes the division again, this formal education. What happened to the kind of education of which I have been speaking—that teacher was not a useful man they will say, his kind of teaching was useless. No quantified figures could be put on his activities results because of his attitude towards education.

Our servile attitudes intellectually often frightens me; the idea that fine men like that were replaced by unhappy teachers. School systems change over the years. I am not scoring any party point at all in showing it for what it is. It should always be a matter of concern for us when we have thrown something valuable away. It is interesting that having made these mad divisions, that it is outside our schools, where I presume formal education takes place, that it is in the home, we must create an atmosphere of value for wildlife. These are crucial questions. Many of us who had the time to study the habits of animals and birds know that in their relationship with other forms of life excesses are controlled. There is a relationship between the vegetation and insects in a tropical area. One does not destroy the other.

I refer again to the section referred to by the Minister and other Senators where urbanisation and technology are regarded as capable of being harnessed. I should like to give a typical example of our pseudo progress. There are certain birds which dispose of garbage but they no longer exist near many of our cities. Because we had to destroy our trees to build roads, and houses. The birds could no longer be, and later we had to bring in techniques of garbage disposal.

This degrading use of technology still goes on. In my rarer moments of optimism, I realise people are beginning to ask questions on the use of technology. It is fascinating too when one reflects on art in other civilisations and our own civilisation in different periods of our history the different position accorded to the wild animals. In a very fine and sensitive speech Senator Horgan made reference to the position of the hare in folk literature. In the art of the East, wildlife is in a more central position than it is in Ireland.

I intend speaking in some detail on section 26, which deals with hunts. Certain points immediately come to mind. When I was reading that very fine book by Sommerville and Ross, The Experiences of an Irish RM, I noted—apart from the impression that horse-riding was better practised than justice dispensed and that certain young ladies were more innovative in their style of riding horses than in other matters—a very interesting omission. Never at any stage in the hunt did we have a description of the killing of the fox. I cannot recall a single reference to that. It was not the mad career across the countryside or the relationship of this single animal chased by a pack of dogs, and then a pack of riders, for want of a better word that was recorded. It was the curiosities of behaviour of those who partook in the activity which provided the core of the literature. It was not the effect of what one did that counted. We were invited to enjoy and be titillated by what had become a practice.

I am not impressed by the argument that hunting is traditional. All sorts of things in their time have been described as traditional. In certain kinds of feudal societies it is traditional to behead people in a public square. No one suggests bringing that back. Therefore, that kind of argument is not impressive.

Another blunt reason why I appreciate the present Minister bringing in this Bill—and he is a man for whom I have great respect—is that at present there is a certain lobby, for example in the oil and gas industrialisation world, represented by a person who, at a seminar in University College, Dublin, some months ago after a speech by myself very honestly said: "The environmental lobby makes me sick."

That kind of opinion, while it is rarely flushed into the open, is more prevalent than one thinks. There is the idea that when the chips are down and we are asked to make a distinction between environmental protection and industrialisation—I have mentioned oil and gas—we should get on with the industry, generate revenue and aid the economy.

Wildlife must be preserved not only in the general atmosphere of industrialisation but in these particular conditions. For example, in the Architects Journal, 26th June, 1974, a number of fine articles discussing the development of offshore oil in Scotland contained, among other things, a long discussion on the effect of the oil development on Scotland itself, particularly the sitting of developments which seem to be necessary. At page 1463 of that journal, Dr. Terry Hegarty, an agricultural scientist working in Dundee, had this to say:

Sites for gas and oil terminals will almost certainly have to be found in the future, and in this context the thorough social ecological and environmental survey of the Scottish coast is long overdue. Shetland and Orkney are bound to be greatly affected by oil and it is reasonable that the islanders themselves should have the major say in determining where development will occur. On the United Kingdom mainland, however, there is more scope for finding sites which will result in the minimum social and environmental impact. It will clearly be important to assess the relative values that employment can bring when weighed against the social disruption, environmental intrusion or scientific loss that may result. This can only be determined after full public debate over such issues as the protection that should be afforded to crofting communities, wilderness areas or spectacular scenery.

That is the opinion of Dr. Hegarty, an agricultural scientist, who has experience of the kind of pressure that is on the Minister here present from time to time.

The Minister makes a specific reference in the Bill to the construction of roads and the necessity for expert opinion. I wish that this sensitivity would extend into other areas. There is nothing so frightening as to find people, without understanding, or without analysing what they are doing, firing everything of value away not only for themselves but for future generations.

Senator Horgan offered his gratitude to the Irish Council against Blood Sports. I would like to put on record my gratitude to that council for the information they supplied on a number of matters. From what I said so far, it will be seen that a lesson could be learned. From the frightening consequences of planning industrialisation unplanned, unrestrained. What can happen in a condition of fright? May I offer an example? When rationalisation takes place in the agricultural sector small farmers will be driven to anything. The Roscommon Herald of 13th August, 1971, under the heading “Massive Drive on Vermin by Fourmilehouse Gun Club” stated:

In a massive drive to eradicate vermin members of Fourmilehouse Gun Club have killed a total of 1,574 animals and birds in the past 12 months. Their catch included foxes, badgers, grey crows, magpies, cats, weasels, hawks, stray dogs, and otters. To account for these they hunted with guns, snares, traps and poison.

The 1,574 animals and birds broken down included 710 cub foxes, 287 old foxes, 162 badgers, 148 grey crows, 105 magpies, 83 grey gulls, 23 weasels, 11 hawks, 4 otters, 4 cranes. The information is available to anyone interested. It continued:

One sad fact which must be mentioned is the refusal by two farmers, one in Strokestown and one in Roscommon, to let hunters of vermin on their land, though they know foxes were killing stock belonging to their poorer neighbours.

I personally had to leave the land of the Roscommon party but went back when the killings continued. There should be no sanctuary for vermin tolerated. We will pursue and destroy any vermin for the protection of the poorer farmer.

I have no anger for these people but this is a dreadful indictment of what people will do. This was presented on films about the events of the foundation of the United States when mobs were rounded up to pursue alleged criminals.

I welcome the section which makes provision for the protection of deer.

I am glad to see the great development which has taken place in forestry. The Minister stated that he was looking for ways in which to speed up his ability to acquire land for forestry, such as land where title is dubious. This is an excellent idea. Our neglect of the forests in the past has been appalling. We have now passed the million and a half mark in acreage under woods and plantation, compared with an average of 340,000 in the 1880s. In 1906, 300,000 acres of forestry existed: in 1930 it had declined to 130,000 acres. All of us who read of the disappearance of our forests with great sadness will welcome the powers the Minister has taken. We will all benefit from the extended forest areas. The vegetation associated with these young forests provide homes for many species of birds. It will help us to resurrect species nearing extinction, particularly those species relying on the low vegetation of the young forest.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.50 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21st May, 1975.