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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 May 1988

Vol. 119 No. 13

Report of Our National Heritage — A Policy for Nature Conservation in Ireland: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Seanad Éireann takes note of the Report of Our National Heritage — A Policy for Nature Conservation in Ireland.
—(Senator M. O'Toole.)

I was speaking about the beauty of the bogland which has been ruined. It was a healthy environment and at one stage I contemplated making a suggestion that temporary dwellings on stilts should be erected in that beautiful scenic area amid the heather and the forest bushes, to encourage people to avail of the curative environment but unfortunately it has been desecrated with rubbish, car wrecks and the like, and infested with rats and other vermin. At present it is not a pleasant area. There is a pious aspiration in regard to bogs in the report, one with which I am in total agreement but there is a practical problem involved because people require fuel — peat and turf — and the bog is being exploited for peat and turf. What is the alternative? I ask that in the context of what is happening to the particular bog I spoke about.

During the war years and the Emergency I worked there. It was an area that gave a lot of employment. It was a very busy area populated by many people at that time. I believe there are more people working on the bog now than there were during the Emergency. I was told by one individual who was there last Sunday that there were people working right across the whole stretch of bogland. The reason for that is the machines have moved in. In my time the turbary rights were exploited; now I understand the machines simply scrape the top of the bogland, and they do as much in a few hours as was done in a whole season years ago, with the result that the fauna and flora and the ecology of the area are disrupted. I spent two happy weeks in the Burren four years ago. I admired the beauty of the area and in particular I would like to pay a tribute to the scale model of the Burren in Kilfenora, which is so helpful to people who want to visit particular areas of the Burren. In passing let me simply suggest that other areas could have what Senator Eogan refers to interpretative centres with scale models to help tourists. That would be a great help.

With regard to the fauna and flora in the Burren and in that particular bogland, I believe — I am not an expert in this area — that we had a comparable situation and all of that is being destroyed. I want to focus on to the alternative to this recommendation, which I agree with. What would I say to the people on that particular bog who for £100 or £200 are getting enough fuel to do them for the winter? Undoubtedly the bogland is being destroyed. I am sure it will be the same story next year or perhaps there will be an increase in activity. What will the people of that area do if they do not exploit the bog for fuel? This in a sense, if I may say so, is a weakness in the report. Possibly it is not intended that a solution on those lines would be contained in the report and I suppose it is up to the Government and politicians to think in terms of a solution or a substitute for this fuel, but I see a major problem in that area. We have planning law restrictions which do not apply, generally speaking, in the area of agriculture or in the area of turf cutting.

Another area which concerns me is reclamation works. I agree that great damage has been done to the ecology and indeed to the environment. Senator de Buitléar mentioned that, by reason of his professional work, he saw step by step deterioration over the past 20 years. Over three times that period almost, I have seen a deterioration and often it was not a step by step progression, but something drastic happening overnight, in a short space of time. This was particularly true with regard to reclamation and arterial drainage.

I recall when I was a young man fishing along a small stream, a meandering river, a place of beauty. I had a friend working in England who came back every year and we used to go fishing together on that little river. He told me that from the time he got the train in London to come back home he was unable to sit down without thinking of the time when he would reach home to throw the line into the river to fish. We fished many evenings and late into the night, indeed. I cannot recall if we ever caught a fish, but we enjoyed it all. That beautiful meandering stream is still there but unfortunately, due to drainage works and reclamation, it is now more like a canal than a stream. In passing I want to pay tribute to the Office of Public Works for their efforts with regard to spawning beds and with regard to the spillage of soil and deposits of soils.

Great strides were made in recent years in an effort to satisfy conservationists and those who were concerned with the environment. In the early years great mistakes were made and we have gaping wounds in some areas but for a considerable period this has been overcome. Unfortunately, it is not possible to preserve the beauty and the amenity of small streams and rivers that meander along, as drainage works in those areas convert them into virtual canals.

The wetlands and the lands that have been reclaimed are another problem. I am aware of enormous reclamation works around my own area. I know of particular places that grew only rushes and useless grasses — an area about two miles from Kells called Kilmainham comes to mind — and in the past few years since the reclamation and the drainage works have been completed, crops of corn have been growing there. This has been welcomed by individual farmers. Even in my early days before arterial drainage work was done in the area, farmers were striving to reclaim plots of land to increase their income. The same still holds, but I question whether this is a sensible line to take. I believe those areas of low lying land had wild life, all of which has been disrupted. Game shoots took place there. Indeed in another estate close to Kells, different game birds are bred in captivity and then released. I know that tourists from America come there by the dozen and pay high fees to be allowed simply to shoot those birds that are released from a tower in that area. It seems to me to be a questionable sport but, at the same time, it is happening. That is the reality.

The point I would like to make is that bad lands that grew rushes and flaggers and the like lost their wildlife when reclaimed. There are other parts of the world where they have paid fortunes to create those self-same conditions. Farmers who have land of that type should be compensated. I believe there could be an income from that type of land. It is up to the Government to bring forward a policy to compensate farmers, or provide an income for them, for this type of land. It is true to say that in a sense the EC has the problem of over-production with regard to agriculture, but when we have game, flora and fauna and all the other items that go with that type of environment, it is wrong even from a business point of view to destroy them. That should be looked at again, and I hope that some policy will be introduced to encourage the farmers to seek advice, or perhaps advice should be provided with regard to what should be done in those cases. The general inclination of farmers to extend and improve their land could be altered for the benefit of the country and for tourism as well. I believe the 31 recommendations which are made are very important, but I would say that of all the recommendations the most important one is under education, that is (1) a coherent programme involving both State and voluntary organisations to increase public awareness of nature conservation and to encourage the widespread adoption of a conservation ethic. This is fundamental to the success of nature conservation.

I want to pay tribute to the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants for this marvellous report, presented in a very straightforward and readable manner. I am glad also that the European Communities assisted financially with the production and I would like to pay tribute to the sponsors who are named — Allied Irish Banks and Prudential Life of Ireland. They deserve great credit. It was also mentioned that there were other sponsors and I feel they should have been included as well, because every encouragement should be given to business to help out with regard to the problem we have in this important area.

With regard to education, as I have said, I believe it is fundamental that we have public awareness in the general sense. In relation to the boglands, it is extraordinary to see that we have Dutch people, as the report tells us, coming over here, buying up particular bogs in order to conserve them because they are so important on a world-wide scale. Our level of awareness is less than in any other country and this extends to other areas as well as conservation. In the areas of tidyness and keeping the country litterfree, we have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of Europe.

The report tells us that this lack of awareness presents a major obstacle to all environment protection activities, including nature conservation which, to be effective requires widespread public support and involvement. The schools can do a lot of work. I understand from the report that there have been changes in the secondary school curriculum to provide courses at intermediate and leaving certificate level and this is very important. As a matter of fact, the reason that I and my family went to the Burren four years ago was that one of my daughters was doing the intermediate certificate and it included questions dealing with that area.

Going back to the poets, we are told "the child is father of the man". This is true in many senses. Adults can be educated through their children in this regard. I am not too sure that a formal course in primary and secondary schools or third level education establishments is the proper way to do it. This has not proved effective with regard to the problem of the Irish language. Perhaps if the subject were introduced in some way apart from examination level it might be more fruitful. It would be possible for the schools to play a major role in this regard without dealing with the subject to examination level simply by having essays on the subject. In the old 6th class book of the primary school curriculum we had many lessons on nature and nature conservation. I do not see why the Government could not now at one stroke deal in a satisfactory manner with that problem and make recommendations, or perhaps straightforward arrangements that something of that kind would be included. When the report on the environment by the Department of the Environment was released in 1980, or shortly after that period, I suggested that it should be circulated to the schools. The Minister at the time told me that that would be considered. I am not sure what happened subsequently but I suggest that if at all possible this report might be distributed at least to the secondary schools. I see no reason why it should not be distributed to all the educational establishments, and I ask the Minister to consider that.

Obviously this is a subject about which we could go on for a long time but I do not think it would be beneficial to make too long a contribution. I feel particularly sad with regard to areas in my own county. I mentioned many times before in this House the beautiful scenic area in Meath, the Ballyhoe area, where we have damsons and fruit trees growing on the side of the road, creating a beautiful scene at the time when trees are in blossom and are in fruit. Unfortunately, I believe it is not remunerative, but nevertheless those trees have remained around that beautiful lake at Ballyhoe. But for a number of years — and indeed I think it has been two years since I was down there — I thought it unfortunate that the whole area was covered with lime. A lime quarry is situated right in the middle of that area. Again it is a reflection on the planning laws that that could happen. It is unfortunate. The planning authorities should be more vigilant with regard to those particular areas.

I agree with Senator Eogan when he calls for a balanced approach but, of course, industry must be catered for. In all those situations, we must be thinking primarily in terms of human beings. That is important. The horticultural societies have done great work in creating an awareness in that area. Perhaps funds could be extended to them, not in a lavish way, but in a modest way, and this would be another way of making progress.

When I talk about this subject, poetry comes to mind and I note with great sadness from the report that the bittern has now become extinct. Our great poet from County Meath, Francis Ledwidge, when he wrote about Thomas McDonagh siad, "He shall not hear the bittern cry". Unfortunately nobody in Ireland will hear the bittern cry in the wild sky. There are other features I could elaborate on, such as land reclamation, the knocking down of walls, the excavation of fences, the removal of piers and gates that were stylised in some area, because the roads were too narrow for the big machines. I think of the poem, "I'm sitting on the stile, Mary". The stile was a feature of the countryside where I lived, but I do not know if it is used any longer. I do not notice them, which is a pity.

It is a wonderful report, but there are one or two aspects that puzzle me. The report says that people come to see the otter along our rivers. I have spent as much time along the rivers as anyone in this country, and while I have seen destruction created by the others — I have seen salmon abandoned after the otter eats a few ounces of the flesh — I have only seen an otter in the zoo. I have never seen an otter on the bank. It puzzles me that people come here to see something I have never seen.

The report states on page 3:

A rural landscape in which there is co-operation rather than conflict between agriculture and nature conservation will be one in which crop and livestock pests are controlled by their natural predators in preference to chemical pesticides.

I am concerned about wild animals but I feel this is a pious hope because during the Emergency years, land was tilled under the compulsory tillage scheme and rabbits destroyed the crops to the extent that they were never harvested. Without going into the details about myxamatosis and other ways of controlling animals that multiply and proliferate to the extent that they become pests and which are seldom controlled by their natural predators it is necessary to do a certain amount of culling and control. With the exception of those small issues I want to say that I agree with the report.

I pay tribute to the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants. I appeal to the Minister to consider, if at all possible, making arrangements that a copy of this report be provided for every pupil in our schools. It would be a good start. Undoubtedly, it would involve some expense but it would be well worth it and would be money well invested.

I am very glad to have an opportunity to speak on this motion. I join with other speakers in expressing my appreciation of and praise for the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants for their contribution to last year's European Year of the Environment by the publication of this document, Our National Heritage — a Policy for Nature Conservation in Ireland in this format. It portrays our marvellous environment which most of us would like to keep in line with the presentation that our heritage is entitled to.

I had the honour of representing the Oireachtas at the First World Conference on Ecology and the Environment in Vienna in 1971 or 1972. Since then I had the opportunity of attending two or three other conferences. They tended to focus a great deal of attention on the environment and the effect that modern technology and the development of nuclear energy had on our environment. I and some of my colleagues have put down motion No. 62 on the passing of the European year of the Environment which I hope will be discussed during the year. We will have an opportunity to discuss the ozone layer and other areas which the European Communities are slow to take a decisive action on, compared with other parts of the world, such as the US and Japan. Our natural heritage is portrayed and assessed in this policy document and I hope it finds its way into every school library. The recommendations are very clear and concise and follow a definite path that everybody can agree with.

The debate was opened this morning by contributions from colleagues who are experts in this field. It was a great pleasure to listen to them and to appreciate the work that has already been undertaken so successfully by them. The recent television series included the Slieve Blooms — I am being parochial when I mention the Slieve Blooms——

We will forgive you.

The Slieve Blooms show up the quality of the environment. I live near the Slieve Blooms and in the late forties or fifties before the advance of auto motor power, I remember cycling 20 miles to see that area which is more or less as Finn MacCool left is so many years ago. It has not been affected to any great extent by habitation and luckily it has suffered very little from the modern type of pollution by those among us with undeveloped appreciation of their surroundings who are inclined to leave their trademark on outings on Sunday afternoons. We have in the very heart of Ireland a beautiful, natural resource that has been brought to the attention of the entire community in the main by J.I. Fanning from the Midland Tribune whose life's work it has been to highlight the importance of conserving our natural heritage and the environment around us. He has recruited expert assistance from the universities — I think John Feehan is associated with Trinity College — and also colleagues from the other universities who together have laid the foundation for attracting public attention. This is very important in relation to conservation.

My county council attracted the wrath of a couple of semi-State organisations some 50 years ago when we refused them permission to put another transposer for bouncing signals on top of what they said was a wilderness. They whinged about the cost of putting in so far off the road but we insisted that it would be built in a place where it could not be seen from a public road in our county. We were accused at that time of adding to public expense but, so far as public representatives are concerned, there is a heavy burden of responsibility on them and on those us who have access to the administration of planning laws to ensure that the environment is passed on to the next generation in the same healthy and beautiful state as we inherited it.

I have been here through the passing of practically all of the important environmental Acts, from the Planning Act of 1963 to the Wildlife Act in the middle of the seventies to the Air Pollution Act, the Water Pollution Act and the Litter Bill and I think that there is great legislation in place but there is very little sign of any of it being implemented. I occasionally call the attention of the officials on our council to blatant breaches of or, perhaps, lack of consideration for the legislation and more often than not we are told that we have not got the money to enforce it, that we cannot police it and have not the wherewithal to put the supervisors or the staff on the ground and that is a pity. Despite that, in the city of Kilkenny, where they have a particularly well developed planning service, they have conserved the beautiful "marble city" and have I think never allowed neon or plastic signs to be erected. The ambiance of that city is so much better as a result and I think that leads to there being very little litter in the streets.

Above all, the residents of the city have obviously a great delight in, a great sense of place, a great sense of home and of belonging to the city which adds to the will to conserve the marvellous buildings there. This helps to enhance the living conditions and hence the working conditions of the area. Even in places where there are very successful tidy towns committes, there will be the odd resident perhaps dumping a bag of refuse a mile beyond the village or town boundary. It is very difficult to understand this and one would like to know where to start. Therefore, I think we have a big educational problem. We have the legislation but most of it is not being enforced.

I came across an extraordinary situation within the public service in relation to the Slieve Bloom mountains where one section of a Department of State had a conservation order and employed a ranger to look after wild life and another section of the same Department setting the hunting and shooting rights over the same territory. Where does one go with that kind of thing? I find that absolutely infuriating. I know it is not very widespread but mistakes like that should not happen. We must strengthen precautions against that. A former Minister, Seán Flanagan, I think back in the seventies set the pace in introducing the Wildlife Act and his Department over the years have responded but at the same time they need greater public support and appreciation.

Nature walk areas where people can walk through and appreciate the environment have been slow to take off. I remember some years ago, as a partaker in one of the Irish vocational education conferences going through the Kerry Way which is a marvellous means of seeing the beauty of the environment there. As a result of that we set up one in the Slieve Bloom area from Clonaslee to Birr which is a fairly long walk. It has not had the benefit of a lot of money expended on it but, nevertheless, the very basics are there and I am glad to see a recommendation in this publication that £9 million a year should be allocated to the environment. Perhaps we should make more of these beautiful vistas. In the Slieve Bloom area most of the breathtaking vistas are not visible from the public road. One must go into the Barrow Basin to see the valleys there. When the afforestation programme was introduced, of course the foresters at first were not particularly keen on or interested in conserving views and I am glad that that policy has changed in the Wildlife Service. As trees are being felled now we are being left with the views.

People living in a village or town, no matter how beautiful it is, get used to it and it is no longer a pleasure to them and they do not appreciate it until an outsider tells them about it. Also, people who really enjoy the beauties of nature are more often than not written off as mildly eccentric. That is an educational problem. We are fast going into an era where working hours are going to be shorter, when people are, hopefully, going to have more spending power at their disposal with fewer working hours, recreational and leisure facilities are becoming more important. Therefore, it is vital that people should be able to afford these facilities and educated to appreciate what nature has given them free but there is a quid-pro-quo here. It is very important that people who enjoy the outdoor scene should also be very much aware of the responsibility of respecting both the public and private property they use. My land — not enough of it, of course, but the little I have — borders the river Nore for almost a mile. You should not take from that that I have a lot of land, nevertheless——

We know you have a lot of land; just continue.

However, I delight in the fact that if I go out to look at my cattle I may see eight or nine hares, rabbits galore and the odd fox — either early in the morning or at night — and there are badgers, pheasants and crows and practically everything that flies. It is far inland and it is splendid to see nature in such a wide variety. The only thing I miss there is the corncrake because the new silage techniques have eliminated that bird which was so pleasant to hear. It brings one back to one's childhood but it has become quite scarce.

We have a problem, however. You would not know the fishermen who use the banks of the river were there. There could be a dozen who would walk back and forth. Senator Fitzsimons was regretting the passing of stiles. I maintain that stiles are the only means by which you can keep your fence. You must make it easy for people to have access. There is never any trouble from the fishing fraternity, but the hunting people who shoot from November until February, certainly do not have the same respect for private or public property and they are likely to leave gates open, trample over fences and they do not give two hoots. That is one of the problems and one of the reasons why in many areas you see big signs: "Poison Laid", "Private Property" and so on. If people would appreciate the problems that landowners have in trying to eke out a living and respect property, there would be no great hassle over its usage. That is why we need to have a review of the curriculum, even in the national schools. That whole area of the environment is important enough to be included with civics in the secondary schools also because each generation must be reminded of it.

That brings me to the matter of dumps. We can have a beautiful environment, but we must also provide in that environment the facilities for ordinary living. The local authorities should be able to provide a better system for waste disposal and while it would be nice to think that we could have incinerators and burners, possibly that would affect the atmosphere. There should be greater emphasis on recycling; we have not really concentrated on that. I notice that in most European cities and towns they have special large containers for green bottles and white bottles so that at least the glass is collected and recycled. But we have a problem here with dumps, especially with chemical dumps and dumps for dangerous substances. I am not happy that there should be an official policy of just dumping dangerous substances into old mine-shafts or into the ground where they are liable to affect water courses. I hope the Department of the Environment will give urgent consideration to that matter. For the provision of dumps there should be 100 per cent grant aid from the Department because it is the only way we can ensure——

Perhaps the Senator would move the Adjournment because as he will appreciate there is a vote in the other House and I do not want an election any more than he does. I understand from the Leader of this House that we are breaking until 2 p.m.

I move the Adjournment of the House.

Sitting suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

It is important that there should be an acute awareness of the necessity to conserve our natural heritage. It is appropriate that Departments of State should set the guidelines to ensure that there will be a proper balance between the development of the country and the conservation of the environment. If one considers the Air Pollution Act or any of our legislation there is a very fine balance and there is a great onus on planners and public administrators to strike a balance between the provision and maintenance of employment and ensuring that the environment remains as far as possible untarnished. We can expect some difficulties in the year ahead from the ESB power station at Moneypoint in Clare. There are monitoring stations right across the country and I hope that assessments and recordings will be made and that the people charged with monitoring the acid rain development will be forthright and honest in publishing their findings.

Farm development and the involvement of new husbandry practices and techniques are areas where the farming community needs assistance as well as guidance and education. For many years I have been of the opinion that the system we have of grant-aiding agricultural development is perhaps dated. I would like to see grants replaced by interest subsidies so that the onus and the pressure would be on people not only to repay but to make their projects work to ensure that there would be a repayment of capital.

In the interest of the environment I would like to see pressure on the farming community to be mindful of the damage that can be caused to the environment and I believe the Department of Agriculture and Food should examine carefully the possibility of providing 100 per cent grant-aid for the inclusion in each development project of appropriate effluent storage and disposal facilities on farms. Coupled with that the Department of the Environment or local authorities should have the facility to impose severe penalties, both financial and custodial, on people who offend against the environment or who do not take the appropriate action. In fairness, in a society such as ours, through indolence or a lack of appreciation of the damage that can be done people will make mistakes. A farm spillage may take place in one townland and the harm can manifest itself for miles downstream. That is something which is difficult for an individual farmer who is endeavouring to collect his silage and is always in a great rush and may be depending on contractors to understand.

There should be a greater understanding of the problem of the costs. There should be a carrot to encourage people to put in the effluent storage and disposal facilities which represent a very small percentage of the cost of modern farm development. I am convinced, from my own experience, that there is not sufficient enforcement of the sections in the four main Acts starting with the 1963 Planning Act. It is one thing to review them, renew them and upgrade them, but if we take the Air Pollution Act, the local authorities say that the Department of the Environment have not provided them with the money either to put in the monitoring facilities or to provide the staff. While that, in itself is a laudable piece of legislation it is not being enforced at present.

I would like to compliment the Minister and I very much regret that it was not possible for me to be with him last year, as I was away on official business, when he took over the Clara Bog for conservation purposes on behalf of the Department. That is a marvellous step in a county where Bord na Móna since the thirties have been the largest industrial employer in the economy of the county. It was a great step for the Department to ensure the preservation for the country as part of our national heritage that portion of raised bog which is nothing to look at if one is living in bogland but, on closer examination, is very important. I acknowledge that some people from mainland Europe played a role in perhaps pricking our conscience to ensure that we would do something about it. There are other areas on which we could keep a closer eye.

In conclusion with regard to the walking ways, whether it is the Wicklow Way, or the Slieve Bloom Way, or the Kerry Way, more funds should be made available for signposting and perhaps erecting signs with suggestions on what strollers or people on vacation might like to look out for. In the instance of Clara bog there is a small plaque — I do not know what it cost; not a lot — which very clearly sets out, as the Office of Public Works have successfully done on practically all of the ancient monuments, a small synopsis of the value to our heritage of the particular area and the kind of fauna and flora people should be looking out for and conscious of. On the walkways across the country I would like to see that kind of signposting and perhaps the Minister would increase the amount of money available for that.

May I again compliment the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants on their work in presenting and in producing this document, in heightening our appreciation of the heritage we are lucky to have and also in pointing the finger to the necessity for keeping it pure and pristine as many areas are. I hope that the Government will accept very fully the recommendations that have been so painstakingly researched and clearly indicated in this document. To the Minister and indeed to his predecessors who, since the enactment of the Wildlife Act, 1976, have made a contribution to that conservation and that effort we owe great gratitude. Go raibh maith agat.

I am calling on the Minister. Lest there should be any confusion the debate is continuing after the Minister replies. He has to go for Question Time later on to the Dail and because he has taken a personal interest in it since early morning I want to allow him in. There are at least four other Senators to speak. In case anybody is worried I am not stopping the debate.

Tá an-áthas orm bheith ar ais sa Seanad agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis na Seanadóirí toisc gur chuir siad an rún tábhachtach seo faoi bhráid an Tí. Déanaim comhghairdeas freisin le gach aon duine a bhí baint acu sa Stát seirbhís leis an tuarascáil iontach seo.

I am happy to endorse what many Senators have said about this excellent document published by the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants on "A Policy for Nature Conservation in Ireland." This comprehensive publication represents a valuable contribution from some of the people who are most closely involved in the formulation of our strategies for nature conservation in the future.

It is obvious that a fundamental element of our national heritage is our natural heritage of wild fauna and flora and their habitats. A conscious awareness of the need to conserve and manage that heritage is a relatively recent development. Increased demands for industrial jobs, better housing and cheaper energy are leading to a variety of pressures on land use which, if they are not controlled, will have irrevocable consequences for the environment.

Here in Ireland, we have been lucky enough to have escaped the worst excesses of industrial and commercial expansion and uncontrolled land use. Ireland is a small country but is an extremely fortunate one in having within it a very varied and beautiful physical environment. However, we cannot be complacent and already many scientifically important habitats and ecosystems have been lost through drainage of wetlands, peatland exploration, destruction of hedgerows and clearance of woodlands for agricultural, industrial and urban development.

The objective of our conservation policy is to maintain plants and animals in their natural habitat living side by side with people. The best national park you can have is one where the local people are involved in its maintenance and protection. Our nature reserves are managed by retaining them in their natural form with the minimum of disturbance. We do not seek to create areas for visual effect but rather to have living beings, both human and animal, walking together within these areas.

By accepted definition, of course, conservation comprehends the rational management and regulation of our wild flora and fauna habitats. This is an ongoing process whereby we maintain our natural environment and use it for recreation, education and general well-being. Environmental protection can march hand in hand with development and most major development projects now include an environmental impact assessment of the effect of the development on the environment. Planning authorities are paying more and more attention to environmental considerations in their decisions. I doubt that there is a county in Ireland today which does not give practical demonstration of this new awareness of the importance of nature, be it in the conservation and planting of trees and hedgerows, the development of lakeside amenities, urban parks and the like.

Pollution is a major threat to our environment and to conservation. We recognise that progress being made in both agricultural and industrial production can lead to threats to our environment. The Government have moved rapidly and decisively in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of the Environment, the Office of Public Works, the local authorities, the farm development service and the regional fisheries boards in order to identify pollution, pollutants and polluters. The necessary action is being taken to prevent pollution in the future and to eliminate it in the present. We are very grateful to the farming organisations, the farmers, the industrialists and factory owners for their continued co-operation in this regard.

Agriculture and conservation can coexist and indeed many of the plants we seek to conserve would disappear if the farming practices which are responsbile for their being there in the first place were changed. Conversely, changes in farming practices have resulted in the disappearance from our fields of some of the more common wild flowers. The farmer must, however, develop his land to its full potential and we will continue to strive to have some areas set aside for conservation. There must be a balance in all things and balance is the key here. We are also seeking to keep a good representative sample of our peatlands and, here again, there must be a reasonable balance between development and conservation.

In my own Department the creation and maintenance of nature reserves is a priority and also the creation of national parks. Senators will have seen that the Taoiseach announced recently a new national park in Glendalough and the two nature reserves covering over 2,000 hectares which I created under the Wildlife Act, 1976, will form the nucleus of this park. These two reserves are good examples of peatlands and woodlands and further reserves will be created as resources permit.

Since I took office I have created eight new nature reserves among them being Clara bog to which a number of Senators including Senator McDonald referred, a prime example of a raised midland bog. There is also the Glenealo Valley, a blanket bog, and Lough Barra Bog alongside Glenveigh National Park in County Donegal. Further reserves are being considered at this time. I also had the privilege of signing the first refuge for fauna order to protect the tern colonies at Lady's Island, County Wexford, and last week we created three other refuges one at Rockabill, County Dublin and the other two in County Kerry. Rockabill is also a tern site, famous for its roseata terns and made famous in particular by an esteemed Member of this House and film-maker, Senator Éamon de Buitléar, while the other two are the habitats of the natterjack toad which is protected under the Wildlife Act.

I can readily appreciate the anxiety of professionals and scientists that a reservoir of scientifically valuable sites should be conserved as a network of representative ecosystems in order to maintain stocks of nature, plants and animals. Apart from the cultural and aesthetic value of the conservation objective, it also has a practical and an economic value in the development of future crops for agriculture, pharmaceutical and industrial needs and essential natural laboratories for students from home and abroad. Conservation of our natural environment will not, however, be guaranteed either by statutory protection or the action of statutory authorities unless there is broad acceptance by society as a whole of the importance of the issues involved. The essential task is to convince fully every citizen that the well-being of our natural environment is a fundamental factor to maintain all life.

My Department have made and continue to make every effort to develop public awareness of environmental issues. We have had considerable success in recent years in bringing home to people the importance of environmental protection. This can be seen in the level of public interest in environmental matters. The process of developing awareness cannot be hurried. Public acceptance cannot be pushed on society as a whole. It must be properly nurtured and we will continue to present the facts on environmental protection in a steady and comprehensible manner.

Through our involvement in the Council of Europe we have been involved with recent initiatives within that organisation aimed at developing a conservation strategy for Europe. The process is at a very early stage, but we will be monitoring the situation and contributing to its progress fully. The very basis for conservation strategy is balance and, given our involvement in the broader European society, I think it best that we should proceed on that basis in the future.

As stated, the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants document calls for funding of £9 million per year for nature conservation. Senator Eogan has shown that State expenditure is very close to that figure. As far as value for money is concerned, I am happy that the return on this outlay is very good indeed. It is easy to quantify the return for this money in terms of the numbers of nature reserves and national parks. However, much of the return has not been and perhaps cannot be quantified. The benefits generated for in State and out of State tourism are, I am convinced, enormous. This £9 million also pays for services which many members of the public would not be actively aware of but they would see the benefits of them in the maintenance of the general quality of our natural environment.

We are seeking to purchase for conservation a good representative sample of raised midland bogs and blanket bogs. Our objectives are to retain 10,000 hectares of raised midland bog and 40,000 hectares of blanket bog. Senators are aware of the Clara Bog Preservation Order and I am pleased to say that the local people of Clara are proposing to set up an interpretative centre in Clara. My Department will give all the professional help we can to them. This is an example of State and private enterprise working together and I see this as the way forward for the future in our efforts to conserve that which is most important to our community.

We have a duty to instil this in our people and in particular in our children who will be the future guardians of our environment. They will shape their own destinies and the destinies of generations to come by the regard they have for the natural environment. For that reason, I welcome the emphasis which has been placed on education and public awareness in this policy document.

There have been a large number of excellent contributions this morning an I will try to refer to them all as briefly as possible. Senator Éamon de Buitléar opened the debate. This House is fortunate to have a man of his eminence here to advise and assist us in the field of conservation because he is a man nationally and internationally renowned for his contribution in the area of wildlife preservation. He stated that listing an area often sounded its death knell as the Department of Energy often drained these areas and later planted them. The past year has been a very exciting one for conservation. As a Government we have tried to bring all the conservation interests together. We have taken the wildlife section of the Department in under the Office of Public Works which we believe is its rightful home. I want to pay tribute to Senator de Buitléar for the great advice and assistance he has given to my Department and to myself over the past year or so. We look forward to his advice and guidance in the years ahead.

Senator Doyle spoke about national parks and the necessity for national parks legislation. We have three fully complete national parks in Killarney, Connemara and Glenveagh. As I already stated last week, the Taoiseach announced the creation of a new national park in County Wicklow to serve the capital city of our country, County Wicklow, country and international visitors to our country. We also hope to create another national park, as resources permit, and as opportunities permit and our whole policy is one of dedicated, constant monitoring of every situation in land use, in land disposal and in land acquisition. As opportunities arise, my Department will react in the most positive way possible to preserve that which is best and to try to create national parks where the necessary criteria for the national parks system can be adhered to.

A move has been made to have all aspects of our natural heritage under the same authority. The transfer of the wildlife functions to my Department was a step in this direction. The amalgamation of all aspects is being actively considered. I support the concept of having all aspects of our heritage under the care of one Minister, I would hope under the Office of Public Works, which I believe is the natural home for all conservation, heritage and historical agencies and interests. We are constantly working towards that goal and we have a few other ideas in the pipeline. We hope that we can amalgamate and bring under the heritage umbrella a number of other agencies and activities which we believe could make an even greater contribution to expediting the achievement of our heritage goals.

Senator Eogan in a very detailed contribution went through the report in meticulous detail. I am delighted to say that the great work he has been doing in the Knowth area in County Louth and County Meath, in the north eastern part of our country, has been acknowledged by the Government over the past year in that we have created the first European archaeological park in the Boyne Valley to encompass the great archaeological sites of Knowth and Dowth, to encompass Newgrange, a megalithic sites of Knowth and Dowth, to encompass Newgrange, a megalithic tomb of 3500 BC vintage, probably the world's first observatory and probably older than the pyramids themselves. There are many other monuments in this area including Monasterboice and others. It is vitally important that they should be preserved and get both the national and international status they deserve. I compliment Senator Professor Eogan on the great work he has done in that area and, indeed, this has been internationally acknowledged. We hope that the creation of this European archaeological park will help not alone to create the resources but also create the interest for the people of Ireland to acknowledge the great heritage resources we have there and for the international world to come and see them for themselves. Many great visitors to our country, including President Mitterrand, and others who have come to this country have gone to visit Newgrange and that area.

Senator Ferris in a very detailed contribution covered the report and the heritage activities of my Department and I concur with his compliments regarding the Eurovision Song Contest because that was one of the bright lights of promoting the natural Ireland. More of that needs to be done in the future.

I am astonished. I think it was the epitome of vulgarity.

He does not know what he is talking about.

Maybe the Senator was not present when the compliments were being passed. My staff are working on amendments to the Wildlife Act of 1976. I hope to introduce a Bill in the Oireachtas later on this year. The amendments are far-reaching and the points on amendments made in the report will be considered in the formulation of the new Bill.

Senator Fitzsimons in a wide-ranging report referred to the destruction of ecology and ethos systems and sites of major importance. Over the past few years we have been working in the publication of the sites and monuments records. During the past year we published the sites and monuments records for Counties Galway, Meath and Wexford. We are proceeding with the research and the compilation of all the various sites and monuments records in all the other counties in a structured organised way in order to identify all our sites and monuments of archaeological, architectural and historic importance.

As resources become available each of the counties will be considered in a careful, meticulous way. We want to ensure that this information will be available for educational purposes, tourist purposes and, above all, for conservation purposes. We have unearthed a large number of extra sites in the new sites and monuments records which we have completed so far in each of the counties. We are very grateful for the co-operation we are receiving from the archaeological departments of the various universities. All arterial drainage works must now undergo an environmental impact assessment prior to the commencement of any arterial drainage scheme. On that score, I hope Senator Fitzsimons can be assured that no scheme will proceed without an environmental impact assessment being done.

Senator McDonald highlighted the importance of good conservation policy. He also talked about the importance of good planning policy and he highlighted the positive attitude of Kilkenny Corporation and Kilkenny County Council in this regard. We appreciate very much their co-operation and the great example they are showing. We are fortunate that in most cases planning officials of the local authorities adopt a very positive approach. Not alone do we get great co-operation from the planning authorities but we also get tremendous co-operation from ACOT and the farm development services in helping to conserve and protect the various monuments and archaeological and historical sites that we have throughout the country.

There is a nature reserve in the Slieve Bloom Mountains which was created by my Department and is under the Office of Public Works. Senator McDonald referred to the fact that forestry lands are adjoining and that the shooting rights on those lands are in the hands of another Department. As forestry is controlled by the Department of Energy we could not get involved in their affairs. They do what they think is necessary in managing the forests and also in letting the shooting rights that exist therein. We are fortunate in that we get good co-operation from them and we will continue to work with them. We hope that, as the forestry activities of the Department are to be commercialised into a State-sponsored commercial body, the negotiations which we are having with them at present will lead to the preservation and the transfer of various important sites under the Department to the conservation wing of the Office of Public Works.

I would like to compliment Offaly County Council and Laois County Council who created an environmental national park in the Slieve Bloom Mountains during European Year of the Environment. Work on that park concluded last March. That is an example of the attitude that should be adopted by various other local authorities throughout the country. As Irish people, we have a special duty as the custodians of our own nature and above all as the custodians of a great natural heritage — we are in a unique position in this island to do so — to protect and conserve our great archaeological sites, our nature reserves, our bog ecological systems and various other sites of historic importance not alone to ourselves but to the people of Europe, as we are part of the enlarged Community. This is why people like the Dutch and others have a major interest in Ireland. They feel it is incumbent on them to make a contribution to the preservation of European heritage and environment by supporting financially Ireland's policy of conservation of heritage matters. We are deeply grateful for the co-operation we are getting and for both the physical and financial support they have made available to us, particularly over the past year.

Our tourist industry is one of our most important sources of revenue. The maintenance of the environment in a healthy state is vital to its future. I welcome this publication by the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants and I wish to pay tribute to everybody involved in its preparation and production. It is a positive indicator of the great goodwill and active support that exists within the public service for the conservation of our natural heritage.

I apologise for my intervention if I misunderstood the Minister. He referred to Senator Ferris' contribution in which I thought I heard a reference to the Eurovision Song Contest being a great achievement. That is what prompted me to intervene.

The Senator is taking it out of context.

On a point of information and for the benefit of Senator Murphy, the reference Senator Ferris made was in relation to a programme on our heritage which was transmitted on another channel on the night of the Eurovision Song Contest. The contributor was at some cross-purposes. Perhaps that might clarify the situation for the Senator.

I did misunderstand. I apologise.

It shows that the best educated people can sometimes misunderstand.

I am glad of the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I am sorry that some notice was not given that it was to be taken today but I am glad nonetheless that the experts on the matter, particularly my colleagues, Senators Eogan and de Buitléar, are here to make their knowledge available to the House. This is the kind of motion to which one cannot but give enthusiastic assent. I have been reading the document of the UPTCS rather hurriedly. One of the most important statements in it is that tourism depends on conservation. This would seem to be, at first sight, a truism but yet it is a truism which, alas, many of our people are not yet finding to be true. Sometime people in public life, newspaper editors and other people — I do not want to be specific but there are two instances I can think of in recent times — are so concerned with emigration and depopulation that they sometimes suggest what is indeed an entirely false antithesis between people and places, as it were.

In today's Cork Examiner there is a reference to the depopulation of west Cork, the area around Goleen in particular, which has no child for Confirmation at present. The editorial goes on to say that scenery is important but people are more important. This might be quite a dangerous note to sound because it might well convey that somehow the two things are not connected when, in fact, there is the most integral connection between them and the future of our most beautiful areas does depend on conservation. The link between employment and conservation must be stated again and again.

One of the other interesting statements in the document is that the people of Ireland have a very low environmental awareness. They have, indeed, and also what you might call a low threshold of visual aesthetics which is connected to that. Their tolerance, for example, of the bungalow blight devastation in many sections of our coastline indicates a low level of architectural and aesthetic values in that visual area. I think things are improving. The historical reasons for this are, I suppose, fairly obvious. Our rural population in an under-populated area which never experienced an industrial revolution and which took nature for granted, so to speak, sums up the instinctive attitude of people towards their environment and the lack of any conscious concern about what is happening.

The question is: how can we improve matters further? I do not speak on this matter with an expert voice, like my colleagues, but as one who is very much an open air person who enjoys the riches that are to be savoured in areas like west Cork, with the splendid hill walking amenities it has to offer. One is appalled now and then when one sees waste disposal dumped at what seems to be picked out as the most aesthetic point. The question that strikes me is: why people go to such lengths literally to dump their rubbish, for example, on the slopes of Musheramore Mountains where I was walking last week. That is an area of total solitude and grandeur and yet there is a whole chain or refuse lacing the flank of the mountain in an area known as St. John's Well. Why people go to such lengths to dump their refuse raises other questions. Can they dispose of the garbage otherwise? Why do they go to such areas of solitude in order to do this? Are they aware of what they are doing? I am not sure that we know the answers to these questions or how we can implement the measures against dumping.

The document prescribed as one of the remedies as the provision of more interpretative sites, as is becoming quite common, the idea being that, if you have a site at a natural amenity explaining its treasures and its natural richness, that would enhance people's awareness of their environment. We will get an opportunity on another occasion — I understand on the Forestry Bill which is coming up from the Dáil — to discuss that aspect of our natural heritage in particular. All I want to say here is a word of praise for our foresters who seem to go from strength to strength. They have imaginative views on what can be done to further improve the areas with which they are entrusted. I am thinking of a visit recently to Gougane Barra. I had not seen it for perhaps a year or so. The improvements there, entirely in keeping with the natural setting, not a single inch wrong, speak volumes for the commitment and the enthusiasm of those who look after our national forests.

I can say little more on this issue except to support the motion enthusiastically and, indeed, to praise the public spiritedness of the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants for producing this splendid document. It seems to me that it says volumes for the public commitment of people, that they take upon themselves this task and discharge it with such obvious devotion and public spirit.

I agree with a great deal of what Senator Murphy has said. In relation to the comment about the Eurovision Song Contest, I think we could both concur that the content of it leaves a lot to be desired. In the context of the remarks about the excellent programme and the features of it which related to our environment and to our natural heritage, it is certainly to be praised.

Maybe I should look at it in future.

I do not think you missed very much, Senator.

With the sound down.

Yes, the visual impact certainly was most impressive.

Through the Chair, Senator.

It was most interesting to listen not only to the Minister of State who has now left — we are joined by the Minister of State at the Department with responsibility for forestry who is welcome — but also to the contributions earlier. Like many of my colleagues in the House I always feel somewhat in awe of people who are experts in a particular field. However the quiet and effective elucidation of matters relating to this motion by our colleagues, Senator de Buitléar and Senator Eogan, was far from intimidating and most informative. We are all the richer for their contribution in this area.

I will not go into the great detail that has been covered by so many other speakers in the debate on the report which is before us other than to concur with Senators who have been unanimous on all sides of the House in complimenting the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants on producing an excellent document and a timely one. It is timely as, indeed, the motion is timely. I could not help but think, as Senator Murphy was referring to the historical reasons why environmental awareness has such a low priority in this country, that we have come a long way in the 65 or 66 years since the foundation of the State from the predominantly rural peasant population, as Senator Murphy said, who took nature for granted to perhaps a more industrialised and certainly a more urbanised community.

However, this motion gives me an opportunity to comment on a particular hobbyhorse of mine, that is, tidiness. It continues to amaze and irritate me intensely whenever, either in my home town or throughout the country, I see my fellow citizens show a total disregard for our environment. I am talking specifically about the disposal of their personal litter, cigarette boxes, crisp bags and lollipops, which are thrown out of car windows and lorry windows with gay abandon. I cannot understand the mentality of people who continue to indulge in this anti-social practice despite all the efforts down through the years by the State, by local voluntary bodies and by organisations involved in environmental awareness, despite all this concentration of information and encouragement. Even to this day if any of us were to walk out onto the streets we would find someone somewhere throwing their personal litter on the streets of our towns and villages. This may fall on deaf ears but, as I have this national forum as a platform, I will add my small voice to all the other voices calling on our citizens to be more aware of the damage they are doing and to change their mentality in relation to litter on our streets in towns and villages.

In that context I should like to compliment Bord Fáilte who are, in a way, the unsung heroes of the litter problem in this country. Since the mid-fifties, from the initiation of the National Tidy Towns Competition, they have done Trojan work in encouraging communities to involve themselves in the concept of tidy towns. Over the past 25 years of its history they have been, in my opinion, the major agency responsible for the enhancement of our towns and villages. Today we have many communities we can be proud of. Litter is a national problem. It is as anti-social as smoking and as anti-social as doing damage to our natural heritage and amenities. The sooner the people realise that when criticisms of our uncleanliness and our untidiness in public are made from abroad, in many cases they are valid and justified.

Finance has been talked about here. The report proposed that a sum of about £9 million a year should be spent to further enhance our environment. The Minister quite correctly said that Government expenditure in this area is pretty close to that and, indeed, the Government are to be complimented. However, money is not the answer but rather an attitude of mind, as has been referred to by many other speakers. For example, in the area of forestry one would hope that on an ongoing basis poor land, land which perhaps might be perceived to have no other function but the growing of trees, might not be planted in such a willy-nilly way in future and that Government agencies will take the appropriate action in advance of such planting to ensure that the land being planted is not in some way being damaged environmentally.

I wish to make a couple of specific proposals in relation to the motion before us. In order to engender greater awareness of the importance of conserving our environment the Office of Public Works, in association with the Department of Education, should explore the possibility of utilising our student population as park rangers along the lines of the American model. These would be guides who would act and serve at geological and historical sites and, where relevant, wildlife preserves. Time spent on these activities at the locations mentioned could be used as exam credits, irrespective of their subject of study. In this way a start could be made in this generation so that in future awareness of the importance of our environment would be on a continuous basis.

The American model is an exemplary one. Indeed, recently the leaders of the US park rangers said that, without the voluntary input throughout the United States, many of their natural reserves would not be manned and protected and would not be available to the general public to be seen, viewed and appreciated. That may not be possible here. Perhaps it requires more finance than resources allow but the thinking behind my proposal is that, unless we start in some generation, and we might as well start now, all of the exhortations of the various agencies to inculcate a love and appreciation of our national heritage will fall on deaf ears.

I referred earlier to the problem of litter. We have been talking about the litter problem for as long as I can remember and yet we still have that problem. The Minister quite correctly referred to the various statutory instruments that are available to prevent desecration of our natural environment in the area of litter, vandalising of artefacts, or the illegal exportation of artefacts but unless there is a real will on the part of the citizens, no amount of legislation will improve the situation.

We have a pollution problem in the west that goes back quite a few years. Many of our lakes are suffering, or are in the early process of suffering, from pollution. The most celebrated of them, of course, is Lough Sheelin but there are many others. I live in County Leitrim, in the Drumshambo area which is generally referred to as the heart of the Leitrim lake district. I was very disturbed to learn from the local authority in recent times that some of our most popular fishing lakes are being threatened with pollution. I might add that this pollution threat is not coming exclusively from the farming population and, in some cases, not at all from farming. In this context I would like to suggest to the Minister that the anti-pollutant aspects of the revised western package be implemented as soon as possible.

Stories abound, especially in my part of the country, of farmers being encouraged to build slurry tanks and silage pits during the heady days of farming in the seventies when we were awash with money from Europe. Proper anti-pollutant measures were not taken when these buildings were erected. Perhaps the law was not strong enough at the time, or perhaps the climate of opinion was not such that pollution and anti-pollution measures had the same priority as they have now, but we are reaping the whirlwind. Ten years later, we have woken up belatedly to the damage being done to our rivers and lakes. Now, sadly, those same farmers are being forced to seek substantial sums of money to up-date their farms upon threat of prosecution from local authorities. I might add, however, that most local authorities and, indeed, my own local authority in Leitrim have been more than accommodating in their dealings with the farming community. In turn, the farming community in Leitrim have been responsive to the approaches from the local authority to avoid any activities on farms which would cause ultimately pollution of lakes and rivers.

Tourism is our single biggest asset in Counties Leitrim, Cavan, Roscommon and the lakeland counties generally. I referred to this before in the context of a low industrial base historically in those areas. Our greatest assets are our natural amenities. It would be tragic, indeed it would have an appalling economic impact on the area I come from if there was a perception that our fishing lakes and rivers were being polluted to the point of the fish population becoming extinct. It is in that context and because of the application of the revised western package to areas such as County Leitrim, that I add my voice to the many voices which have been heard in recent weeks since the announcement of the revised western package asking for the anti-pollutant measures in the western package to be implemented. That would help to alleviate the financial problems farmers are facing in trying to cope with the legislation in the area of pollution and the enhancement of our environment generally.

I would also like to propose to the Minister, in a sense this perhaps comes within the ambit of the Minister of State with responsibility for foresty, that some form of grant-aid should be devised for householders in both the business as well as the private sector who own thatched houses. There was a time, even in my own memory, when there were substantially more thatched houses dotting the countryside of Ireland than there are now. As Senator Murphy said at the beginning of his contribution, perhaps in the context of accepting nature as being God-given and taking it for granted, we also accepted things like thatched houses and cottages as being part of our environment. They were there and we did not think about them, no more than we thought about the farmhouse with the old traditional hob on the fire, the black pot and all the other fine aspects of Irish life which sadly in some cases — and I am thinking here of the Cathaoirleach's own county — are conserved in parks as museum pieces and visitors come from afar to see those aspects of Irish life that are no longer part and parcel of everyday living.

The reason I am bringing up this question of grants for thatched houses is that an Taisce have been pressing for such a policy and I agree with them. It is a vital part of our natural heritage which is dying out and will very shortly become extinct. The response to that proposal may be: "Well, why cannot the householders pay for it themselves?" I understand — and I am not an expert in this field — that thatching and rethatching can prove quite expensive. It requires constant maintenance. Indeed the rethatching of roofs is something that happens on a more regular basis than perhaps we are aware. If you have a slate roof it is there until a storm knocks the slates off or something else of that nature happens which means having to devote time to it.

In my home town of Drumshanbo there is one thatched house. It is a business premises. It is on the high street and it stands out. What motivated me to mention the thatched houses issue in the context of this motion is that the owners indicated to me recently that, simply because of the cost and the maintenance factors, they were seriously considering putting a slate roof on their house. In the context of the rumours — perhaps the Minister can clarify this — circulating about the possibility of a new national heritage council coming into existence there may be some room for flexibility in that area.

The question of a national heritage council brings me to my next proposal on which Senator Eogan touched earlier. The Government should consider seriously the re-introduction of the National Heritage Bill which came before this House in 1982, but sadly did not see its passage completed. It is my understanding, and I rely on my peers in this context, that the National Heritage Bill contains practically all the answers to the problems that are facing us in an environmental context — I mean answers in the legislative context as distinct from a practical context. Hopefully, that will come after the provisions of the Bill are put in place.

One of the major important aspects of the future passage of the National Heritage Bill in its past form is that it would set up a national heritage council. The membership of the council would be drawn primarily from those personnel who are professionally involved, or who have day to day expertise, in the area of our heritage. I do not wish to suggest that civil servants are not au fait with their particular brief, but as we are all aware, we are dealing with a subject which covers seven or eight Government Departments and the resultant bureaucracy that is inherent in that reality. If there were a national heritage council and the environment were to be brought under the umbrella of one Minister, I have every confidence that the scenario as outlined by Senator Eogan and others could only prove beneficial for the future wellbeing of our heritage.

I touched briefly on tourism, and I would like to finish on tourism. We talk about conservation as has been outlined by various speakers and most eloquently and informatively by the Minister, and a great deal has been done by Government Departments over the last few years. Many of the projects which have been taken under the wing of the Office of Public Works, such as the development of national parks, cutaway bogs, blanket bogs, and flora and fauna parks throughout the country, came as a very pleasant surprise to me. They give the lie to any suggestion that successive Governments in recent years have not given a very important priority to environmental awareness. That is where the tourism element comes in. For example, there is a reference in the excellent booklet to which we have been referring, published by the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants, to geological rock-formations in Sliabh an Iarainn, a mountain which overlooks picturesquely the town of Drumshanbo where I live. It attracted geologists, both students and graduates, from all over the world as far back as the fifties.

These people are locally referred to as potholers. They were looked on by the locals as rather strange people who spent most of their time digging around the mountain, going into caves, sometimes getting lost and having to be bailed out by a local farmer or the local gardaí, but they were tourists. They were people who visited the area for their speciality. They stayed in the area for several weeks, they spent their money in the area, and they came back. When they came back they brought other students and people doing post-graduate work. My late father encouraged local tourist interests to develop more information about the geological formations in Sliabh an Iarainn. I can remember vividly that one lady was so enamoured with the area that one of her last requests was to have her ashes scattered on the mountain, which we did.

There is a tourist element in the conservation discussion. It is incumbent on all of us who have the interests of this country at heart that we would encourage more people throughout Ireland to identify what our heritage is and those aspects of our environment that are important to present and to future generations, and that they be encouraged to protect them. The proposal in the booklet that the relevant Department of State should identify the sites in the country is a good one. Whether in practice the resources are there to carry out that major work is another matter, but the proposal should be taken on board.

I could not help but notice in the excellent photographs that accompany the book, that there is one of an endangered species — the Kerry slug is internationally recognised as a threatened species. The report goes on to say that despite their ecological importance, no invertebrates, as yet, are protected by the Wildlife Act. Perhaps if the Kerry slug had a reputation for being good at football, it would never be in danger of being extinct.

I commend the movers of the motion. It is timely not just for the Government to reflect on but for all of us, as Members of this House, to reflect on. Perhaps we will go out of here renewed and imbued with a real aspiration to ensure that wherever our natural heritage is endangered, we will shout stop and point out that it is not just we, who are here for a short time, who should appreciate the beauty of our countryside, but that we owe it to future generations.

I join with other Members in welcoming this booklet "Our Natural Heritage", published by the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants. The visual impact of the booklet is top class. The photographs show the beauty of the countryside first, and in other cases, the damage done by pollution, litter or cars. The effect they are having on our countryside strikes one when reading through this booklet, a booklet which should be brought to the notice of the widest possible audience through distribution in schools, local authorities or in any other manner. I would urge the Minister to make this booklet available to the schools and at least to local authorities so that as many people as possible would become aware and educate themselves so that they will cause less damage to our environment. How do we achieve the desired results articulated in this booklet? We must have awareness, education and co-operation. If everybody concentrates on their own area — if a farmer concentrates on keeping his farm free of pollution, if a householder concentrates on keeping the front, side and back of his house free of litter, if every public body concentrate on their own area — in a very short time our environment would improve by several hundred per cent.

The booklet deals with many aspects of our environment and raises many questions about our approach to modern machinery, modern farming methods, and so on, which are changing the whole landscape. Even the development of our bogs has changed the landscape. Semi-State bodies, such as Bord na Móna, involved in the development of raised bogs in the midlands over the past ten or 15 years, have changed what were several thousands of acres of vegetation, heathers and rare plants, by the process of milled peat production. As everyone is aware, this process does away with vegetation in the bogs and the whole environment is changed. At one time, rain was absorbed by the vegetation on the bogs and they were purified. Now, the rain washes down on a vegetation-free surface of several thousand acres. This has far-reaching effects on smaller rivers, fish stocks and other aspects of our environment. Those matters should also be looked at.

Ten or 20 years ago people cut turf with a slean in a systematic manner. Maybe that destroyed some bogs, but now there is new machinery for turf production. These machines can work on mountain bogs which previously were not accessible. In other words, they produce the sausage-type turf where the machine digs down like a mole and breaks the top surface of the bog. In areas such as Connemara with which I am familiar, machinery is cutting turf in bogs which up to now were not accessible. This is having a detrimental effect on the environment. But people should have the right to cut enough turf for their own needs for the winter.

We must be vigilant of changes in technology. We must balance our desire to protect the environment with the livelihoods of the people in those areas. For example, in Connemara, serious difficulties have arisen. Up to now, a sheep farmer with a couple of thousand acres of mountain bog kept 400 or 500 ewes. He left them up the mountain in the winter and brought them down to have their lambs in the spring. He was lucky if he got on average, three-quarters of a lamb or half a lamb per ewe. In a bad year he might not sell the lambs and he would let them up the mountain again and they came down as hoggets or wethers the following year when he sold 60 per cent of them. That system is now changing in areas like Connemara where sheep have become a valuable asset. There is a good livelihood to be made from sheep. A person with 1,000 or 2,000 acres of mountain land tends to look after his sheep better, and instead of letting them up the mountain in the winter, he now wants to build sheds or feeding units for his sheep on what were 2,000 bleak acres. How do we measure the rights of that man who wishes to improve his livelihood in his natural environment against the rights of the planning authorities who tell him he cannot build the shed because for hundreds of years a shed was not necessary in that area. A shed is necessary now because sheep have to be gathered for dosing, shearing, feeding and so on, activities which were not part of the pattern of sheep farming before. In other words, the pattern of farming is changing the way we have to approach the protection of the environment.

How do we reconcile the protection of the environment with the protection of the rights and livelihood of people who live and farm in that area? Do we say this area should not be spoiled but should be protected for somebody who passes by once a year in a car or because it is a tourist attraction of the area? The same problem is developing in other farming areas where intense agricultural reclamation of land has changed the environment. How can we tell a farmer that he should not improve his five, ten or 15 acres of scrub land to bring it into higher production because he would be destroying the environment by doing so? How do we reconcile those different positions? Those are the questions we must pose.

How do we reconcile the campaign where farmers have been visited by Department officials who examined their silage pits? Almost every farmer nowadays makes silage. This did not happen 15 or 20 years ago. County Councils and local authorities are now asking farmers to inform the council of their proposals for silage making next year. Has that farmer to go to great expense to adhere to the conditions now being laid down? How do we reconcile that with the man in a rural area who is trying to make a living and bring up his family in those circumstances?

The tradition has changed with regard to cattle. Cattle are now taken off the land in the winter and fed in yards. Farmers are being told that what they are doing does not meet the councils requirements, but nobody is laying down what the requirements should be. I know farmers who got estimates of £15,000, £20,000 and £30,000 for putting their yards in order to hold cattle over the winter. In those circumstances, do you tell those people not to make silage but to make hay which is safe? I notice in the top left photographs that hay is being made in a typical west of Ireland fashion. Do we revert to penalising a farmer — and that is what putting a penalty of £15,000 or £20,000 on a farmer to improve his silage facilities is — if he cannot do that and many of them cannot? Must we penalise him by making him revert to the traditional methods of farming which the Department of Agriculture, ACOT and everybody else have been advocating he must get out of for the past 15 years? Do we penalise the man who takes the cattle off the land in the winter and tell him he cannot have his cattle in for the winter but must leave them roaming the land doing damage in other directions? I am raising those problems to see where the line lies between the rights of people and the rights of our environment.

The Minister of State said there were seven different Departments involved in the protection of the environment. Perhaps we should have a co-ordination of those Departments, with only one giving advice. It is not good enough for somebody to come out from one Department and tell a man he cannot continue to work as he has been doing. There should be a co-ordination of effort. The man should be advised and helped to meet the requirements of all the Departments.

Senator Mooney — as well as succeeding in mentioning Drumshambo three or four times — mentioned the appalling state of some lakes and rivers. He mentioned that rivers in his area were "unfishable". The rivers and lakes in my area are also "unfishable", but for a different reason.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We are not going into the reasoning here?

No, I do not intend to go into it this evening, but the rivers and lakes in my area are "unfishable" for reasons the Minister could cure, if he took his head out of the sand and looked at the very serious problem in the west. All our very fishable rivers are "unfishable" now because of the rod fishing licence. He introduced and rushed a Bill through this House and the Dáil before Christmas, despite the fact that he gave us assurances that it had the full support of all angling clubs, etc., which turned out not to be the case. I will not refer to that any more.

I pose those questions to the Minister of State. How do we get all the Departments co-ordinated and working together to achieve the ends I believe people, farmers and others, want to improve our environment and to stop pollution, litter, etc?

Like other Senators, I would like to thank the Leader of the House and the leaders of the other groups for allowing this discussion to take place today. It is very timely that we should have such a debate. I would like to thank Senator de Buitléar and Senator Eogan, in particular, for their very interesting and informative contributions. Every Senator listened to them with great interest, and I wish them every success during their stay here, which has certainly enhanced the Seanad. We are also greatly indebted to the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants for producing this document. It is an excellent document and has the quality necessary in that it makes very strong recommendations on how we should proceed for the future. The Oireachtas and the policy makers are indebted to them for producing this document at this time.

As many Senators have said, Ireland has a very beautiful environment, and we have a unique environment in many ways. It has survived intact for thousands of years and, as I have said already, we have many features which are unique and specific to Ireland. We have been lucky in many ways in that we have been spared the destruction of the European industrial revolution which took place at the end of last century. We are also lucky that we have a small population and so the demands on the environment are not as great as they are in other continental European Countries. That is something we should be aware of and we should exploit to the biggest possible advantage.

The greatest threat to our environment is the lack of awareness of its importance, particularly in this Country. This awareness of the importance of the environment is found on the Continent and it is only slowly becoming apparent in this country. This awareness has come at the eleventh hour. During the sixties, seventies and early eighties, our environment was exploited. An environment that has survived intact for thousands of years was suddenly under threat and now, at the eleventh hour, we realise what is happening. I think we have been saved in the nick of time. We now must set about the process of creating this awareness of the importance of the environment for all our people and, indeed, for our economic well being, particularly in relation to tourism. The fragile miracle of our natural environment must be protected. It is very fragile and we have to get across to every man, woman and child just now important that environment is.

As I have said this is important for a number of reasons in particular in relation to our tourist industry. The whole area of fishing, walking holidays, hiking holidays and so on, is an area which Ireland is ideally poised to exploit, in particular in relation to the European tourist market. We have a unique advantage in these areas. We must be aware of that and do everything possible to develop such holidays.

Another area which must be addressed — indeed, several Senators have already mentioned it — is the conflict between economic development and the environment. The Minister mentioned it in his speech when he said that "environment protection can march hand in hand with development". Senator McCormack went into this in great detail as it affects agriculture. Many Senators also referred to the need to strike a balance, and that is the most important thing. We have to strike a balance between the need for economic development and the need to protect our environment. The achievement of this balance is one of the major issues confronting policy makers and everybody concerned with our environment.

The balance has to be struck, for example, in relation to forestry, and I welcome the Minister here today. Senator de Buitléar this morning — unless I am mistaken — was a bit worried about some of the afforestation taking place throughout the country. In that field alone, you can see the conflict between economic development and the protection of our environment. We have to proceed — and I am sure the Minister will agree — with the afforestation of many areas to ensure that we are a good producer of timber while, at the same time, striking a balance to ensure that there are no undue detrimental effects on our environment.

The issue of bogs has also been raised several times today. This is where the conflict between economic development and the protection of our environment is apparent. People need fuel. The Country needs power to ensure that its economic activity proceeds, and yet our bogs are a great natural heritage which must be protected. Again, the balance must be struck. I am sure that balance can be achieved with the co-operation of all people concerned.

Senator McCormack mentioned the balance in relation to agriculture with regard to economic development and the protection of our environment. The report mentions reclamation and drainage, the effects of fertilisers on our environment and the pollution of our lakes. The intensification of agriculture is proceeding and must proceed if we are to achieve our economic targets. In relation to agriculture it is apparent that a balance needs to be struck. It would be a major achievement for policy makers to ensure that economic development proceeds and at the same time that our environment is protected to the greatest possible extent and as far as is practicable. I was delighted when the Minister said he believed environmental protection can march hand in hand with development.

A number of recommendations have been made in the report. I was glad to hear that the Minister will take on board, and has already taken on board, many of the suggestions made in the report. A most interesting suggestion refers to the protection of important areas. The report also refers to environmentally sensitive areas and suggests that these should be identified and designated. I suggest that one area which is environmentally sensitive is the Great Blasket Island of County Kerry with which I am familiar. The Great Blasket Island is famed in folklore, poetry and in literature and is also famed for its terrific wildlife which is present there. A group down there at the moment called Fundúireacht na mBlascaodaí are doing everything possible to ensure that this environmentally sensitive area is protected and perhaps made into a national park.

I suggest to the Seanad that new legislation is urgently needed in that regard. The titled to the lands on the islands are very much in doubt and are in dispute. This is causing enormous problems for the authorities in protecting the island, its folklore and history. I suggest that either a specific Bill is needed to tackle the situation found on the Blasket Islands or else a new Bill dealing with many areas similar to the Blasket Islands to ensure that the Government can acquire them for the benefit of the nation. At the moment that is not possible due to the very technical legal situation which is to be found there. I suggest that legislation is needed and I call on the Government to give that urgent attention.

The report also places emphasis on species based conservation. Again I could refer to the Blasket Islands in this regard. A number of experiments have been taking place there. The report suggests that voluntary organisations and individuals have also a role to play in protecting our environment. There are a number of examples to be found in west Kerry where voluntary organisations and individuals have been implementing a conservation programme with specific reference to species based conservation. I know for example, and Senator de Buitléar may be able to correct me if I am wrong, that there is a moth found in the Blasket Islands which is unique to the Blasket Islands. It cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If people are not aware of that it could become extinct for one reason or another. That is just one area of concern and I agree with the report using that example.

It is also suggested that the red deer which is to be found in Killarney is under threat because it interbreeds with other types of deer. Experiments have taken place there to ensure that another species which is under threat will be protected. Also to be found in the Blasket Islands is the largest colony in the world of stormy petrels. The three species I have mentioned are unique to that part of the country. A great deal can be done by voluntary organisations and individuals co-operating together with the authorities to ensure that they are protected. I agree fully with the recommendation in the report that we need to focus on species based conservation.

The report also calls for education and public awareness. That is possibly one of the most important recommendations in the report. It is important that this document should be made available in all the schools throughout the country and that its recommendations should be given serious consideration because the future of our environment depends on our young people who are possibly more sensitive to the need for the conservation of our environment. I suggest that this document should be made available in all schools throughout the country and that we draw it to the teachers' attention.

I have been very heartened in the Millennium Year to find a number of tree planting projects taking place in schools throughout the city. Thousands and thousands of trees have been planted this year. This has been undertaken by the local authorities, by voluntary groups and schools throughout the city. In places where trees tend not to survive, they have been planted and cared for by schoolchildren and are now surviving and cared for by the local people involved. Dublin Corporation are to be fully congratulated also on their tree planting programme for the Millennium Year in that vast numbers of trees are being planted throughout the city in their parks. This is to be welcomed.

Finally, I agree with the last recommendation of the report that the Government should co-ordinate their activities in relation to the environment and that one single Minister should be given responsibility for the various issues involved in it. The Minister, Deputy Treacy, referred to this in his speech and said he believed it was a good idea. Perhaps we could proceed further with that.

First, I welcome the publication of this report by a sister union, the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants. It is quite significant that very rarely this part of the work of Irish trade unions becomes public. The fact that very many of them are spending huge amounts of resources on this kind of work is quite significant. People like Greg Maxwell, Vera Hogan, Paul Doyle, whom I know, and Alan Craig whom I do not know, are very much to be congratulated. Considering that I am normally in the position of criticising the banks, the banks who sponsored it are also to be praised. I find much of interest in the report. When it was first published I wrote a letter of congratulations to the union. I find much good sense in it and I think every speaker so far today has gone along with the same general idea.

My own area of specific interest is the area of education. Listening to Senator Haughey's words and to other Senators there is a very clear recognition and understanding that awareness of the need for a commitment to the environment should begin in the most formative years. Therefore the schools and education generally can have a major impact in that general area. I must confess that I came through primary and post-primary education barely knowing the names of trees, plants, insects or birds. I knew the few I needed to know to write an essay. I did not have a love of nature. The reason I refer to that is that those were the days of the famous primary certificate when the objective of education was very narrow by virtue of the examinations at the end of it.

The publication of the new curriculum in 1972 which includes environmental studies changed all that. I recommend Senators who have not done so before that they should walk into even the most junior classes in primary schools and the first thing they will notice is the great awareness of nature on the part of the young pupils in those classrooms. Almost every classroom in the country nowadays has a nature table which changes with the seasons and reflects the changes in nature outside. At this time of the year, they are watching the tadpoles. At another time they are collecting conkers or whatever it happens to be and all the time nature is being reflected in the classroom.

Work which needs to be encouraged and which takes a lot of time in classrooms, but which everybody maintains is very important, is a type of tree census in local areas, that is, to count the number of trees, to name them and to perhaps draw a map of them. This is valuable work which gives young people a great sense of involvement in their environment, an understanding of the environment and eventually a love of the environment. I say that because I honestly believe — and it saddens me — that we are the dirtiest and environmentally most uncaring nation in Europe. Of the countries I have been in, I rank ourselves bottom of the league. We must face up to it. We have no understanding of the environment.

I come from the west and because we see so much space around us in the west we do not learn to love the environment and appreciate the need to conserve it. That is changing now because of the changes that are taking place in the education system. I can assure Senators that this kind of work in the classroom takes a lot of time and energy and one to one work, lots of movements around the room, project work from pupils and it does not happen in large classes.

I am not going to sing that song today, but everybody must understand that these are precisely the areas referred to as the peripheral areas in the curriculum which suffer in large classes and when there are cutbacks in education. Everything in this document demands a commitment to funds, and that is one area where it cannot be done. I want to refer to something Senator Haughey said. He suggested that this booklet should be available in every school in Ireland. I certainly agree completely that there should be a copy in every school in Ireland. Every primary school where nature study is taught as a subject should have it available to them. I can guarantee that my own union, INTO, would be quite prepared to subsidise the circulation of this document, were it to be made available. It would be a valuable resource in primary schools. It would do a great deal to direct the attention of teachers, pupils and parents to nature and the environment. I would like to make that offer and make it quite definitely.

I am trying to cover the areas which have led to an increased awareness of the environment. The new curriculum in primary schools has at least enabled children to identify trees, leaves, insects, plants etc., and to understand pollution. I find it a joke to listen to Senator Mooney saying children in our schools should be involved in some type of nature watch. They are involved in nature watches. There is not a school in this country where the pupils are not involved and interested in what is happening in nature around them and who do not take a very keen interest in it but, unfortunately, sometimes this interest does not carry over.

It gladdened me the day before yesterday — and this refers to what Senator Haughey said about the corporation's tree planting programme — driving through Ringsend from the east link bridge up towards Sandymount last week to see hundreds of trees planted there and not one of them has been vandalised. That is a step forward. I remember speaking to the corporation landscaping department five years ago and they said they worked on a basis of 20 per cent only of trees surviving. It was great to see a couple of hundred trees growing and none damaged. That really is significant and shows the advance we have made.

It would be absolutely remiss of us on this side of the House not to put on the record the tremendous work that has been done by individuals. I want to single out my colleagues, Senator Eogan and Senator Éamon de Buitléar in this area. Nobody can describe adequately the contribution they have made to the environment and this is something for which the rest of us must be deeply grateful. It is significant that even in this booklet quite a number of the photographs have been taken by Senator de Buitléar which shows his continuing involvement in that area. We are greateful for this.

I want to single out trees. It is regrettable that we in Ireland have a very poor history having a love for trees. I was trying to establish where would be a good example of a native Irish forest. It is quite difficult. My colleagues tells me that Killarney is probably the best example. I am very chauvinistic about trees and one of my worst moments was arriving home and finding that the woman with whom I share my home, mortgage and family had planted a Leyandi hedge along the far end of the garden. I went out immediately and got some silver birch to get the balance right. I believe we do not have Irish trees. Cromwell planted the ash tree. The beautiful ash trees all over the country are the better legacy Cromwell left us. He planted them for the stockades and so that they could make stocks for guns and the GAA came along later and decided to make camáns out of them. Nowadays we can look at them and love them for what they are. The planters came and brought sycamore trees from Canada and used them to line the avenues up to the big houses. That was a fair legacy to be left.

We have a very poor record of tree planting. I know there are regulations to stop people from cutting trees without replacing them. I see it happening all around me. Trees go and are not replaced. There should be a major effort to replace all that was lost through the Dutch elm disease over the past number of years.

You learn more from your own home than you do from many other things. I was very pleased to see in the kitchen recently — and it is still there — a huge chart with a list of planet-friendly aerosols and aerosols which do not cause damage. This is something that bothers me because I was on to the Department of the Environment some months ago and I asked about Government policy on chlorofluorocarbons. I want to explain that the use of aerosols, and such like, increases the level of fluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere leading to damage of the ozone layer, which is happening at present through the use of these materials and through the use of polystyrene substances and so on.

Every time people go into a fast food junk joint they should insist on having their food handed out to them in cardboard or something else and not in polystyrene. My family always do. It needs to be brought home to people that every time they use one of these polystyrene containers and every time they press a button on an aerosol can they are damaging the ozone layer. Damaging the ozone layer means that the strainer, as it were, on the sun's rays is weakened. There is a build up of ultra violet rays which is creating an increase in the world's temperature. The increase in the world's temperature is killing off huge amounts of wildlife and is having what is referred to as a hothouse or greenhouse effect on our planet and is, in fact, interfering with the life chain.

What has that got to do with what we are discussing today? It has got to do with European Conventions which are not referred to specifically but are referred to in passing in the section on international responsibilities in this document. It saddened me when I rang the Department of the Environment about this matter two months ago to be told that we are a very small country and the impact we would have on this area would mean nothing in world terms. That is not the right attitude. If these items are causing damage to our environment, they should not be imported. We have taken a reverse line on things like the canned beer in Europe. I would like us to carry that policy to its logical conclusion and to stop the importation of things like aerosols which are causing damage to the planet. We are a party to an agreement to cut down on fluorocarbons and we should legislate not to allow the importation of environmentally damaging containers.

It would be wrong to discuss the natural heritage without discussing section 4. Section 4, as it is used by local authorities, was put there for a very proper reason, to protect the environment. In many cases it has led to a visual pollution. I would say as well in reference to na Blascaodaí go bhfuil baint agam féin le Fundúireacht na mBlascaodaí. Aontaím go mór leis an méid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Haughey ar an cheist sin, is é sin go bhfuil níos mó de chultúr agus scríbhneoireacht na hÉireann tagaithe as an míle cearnach sin den Bhlascaod Mór ná mar atá tagaithe as aon mhíle cearnach eile den tír. Cuireann sé isteach go mór ormsa go bhfuil an chuid sin den oidhreacht á cur ar sale and being used as a little bit of real estate by US real estate agents and being bought and sold just like a plot or a block of Los Angeles or New York. It saddens me and I find it desperately unpalatable and unacceptable that a great source of culture and writing in this country should be used like that. I certainly know that the Minister here present would have similar views on that and that his former public relations officer — who has gone on to higher things this morning — has a very. clear public interest in the same thing.

In going through the generality of what is in the natural heritage document I also refer to its value in purely commercial terms, that is, the commercial value of, the tourism industry. Our natural heritage is all around us. This is not a sun-drenched island such as we see in publications depicting this country. It is a lovely island with great beauty. We do not believe that ourselves. I know that because I meet people every day of the week who have never seen the Glens of Antrim, the Mountains of Mourne, or have never driven over the Glenshane Pass or around Slea Head or wherever it happens to be. They just do not know this country. They know the Canaries better. I have no objection to people going to the Canaries but I think that people are not committed and do not know the beauty of this country, whether it is walking between two locks on a canal in the midlands or looking at a birch tree growing in the middle of a bog on its own in the midlands. There is beauty of different kinds in every part of this country. We have failed to sell it in that way. We should abolish depicting sun in advertisements about this country abroad. The sun should not be allowed in them.

I got another brochure last week and it made me sick to look at it. There were four photographs on two pages — the publication came to every Member last week — and in every one of them there was a bright shining sun. That is how we lose people. We do not need it. I guarantee that looking down over Baile an Fheirtearaigh on a wet day with the wind blowing against you is as thrilling and as exciting and as satisfactory as walking on a sun-drenched day. We have failed to sell this and we have also failed to project the fact that our bogs and walks are beautiful, that our forests are beautiful. We have our national parks. This Government and successive Governments had done tremendous work in this area whether it be in Muckross, or Glenveagh, or wherever it is. You just see the interest of people when they are walking through the forest walks or the wood walks in these areas.

A discussion on our natural heritage is a great step forward for the House. I want to refer to a number of the recommendations that have been made. We need amending legislation to cover the gaps that are there. I commend this to Government. This is something we can all agree on and this is the House to bring it into. Let us consider the report before us. Give us a bit of time to consider it and let us respond to it. The cost involved in many of these things is not great. Social legislation of this type is tremendously important.

I would also like to refer to the recommendations on international aid. I am delighted is referred to because we actually have an attitude in Ireland which I think grew up with the black babies long ago, the patronising attitude that you shove money out to the Third World or the developing world and, once it is out there, you are doing good. We have not always done good. Sometimes that money has been very badly used in terms of protecting the environment and some of the projects are very much open to question. Now that we have adopted a more sophisticated approach we should insist, when we are sending aid to developing the Third World, that that aid is invested and used in a way which is environmentally friendly. I certainly go along with the recommendation on integrating conservation needs into Irish aid to developing countries.

I am not in a position to talk with any sense of authority on the question of bogs. When I was young I spent most of my time getting away from them in case I got a job there. It was hard for me to love bogs but I certainly have learned enough from television to know that they are beautiful indeed. I have been learning from television. The Kerry slug was not much loved either in my youth. It was considered to be a bit of a nuisance. Now that I have grown up, I know it is important, I am learning that today as well. Another part of my mis-spent youth was spent in that beautiful part of the country.

Going through the list of photographs I see that one was taken half a mile from where my grandmother was born and an other where my father was born, an other where I used to live and an other where I live now. As none of those constituencies is of any value to me, I will just say it is a tremendously beautiful publication and very well put together. It will lead to greater public awareness of our natural heritage. If it can be circulated it will help us to get our young people to love our country, to learn that we can be proud of it and that we will not countenance to tolerate anything which is damaging to it. We will work actively towards improving it. That can only be done by making ourselves aware of it and, as legislators, we have a duty to do this to the ultimate.

I appreciate the value of the documentation. Again I congratulate the Union of Public and Technical Civil Servants on publishing it and I thank the Leader of the House for making this time available for the discussion.

As it is now 3.58 p.m. does that conclude the debate? There were, as I understand it, other Senators who wished to speak.

A Chathaoirligh, I thank you and all the Senators for their tremendous interest and very positive and wide-ranging contributions. This report has stimulated an awareness and interest in conservation. This House has played a key role in that and we are deeply grateful for it. If I were to single out any recommendation in the report I think it would be recommendation No. 3 dealing with education and public awareness. I would hope that, in co-operation and in discussion with the Minister and the Department of Education, we might be able to do something in that field in the interest of the present and future generations but, above all, to make young people aware of the tremendous environment and the wonderful heritage we have.

Question put and agreed to.