Heritage Bill 2016: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Debate resumed on amendment No. 3:
In page 12, line 1, after "1976," to insert "the Minister may make regulations to allow".
-(Senator Grace O'Sullivan)

I welcome the Minister back. When progress was reported, Senator Murnane O'Connor was in possession. Is the Senator finished?

I want to speak to the amendment. With the greatest respects to my colleagues who put forward the amendment, there is an inherent illogicality in the amendment. There is an inherent wrongness or lack of soundness in the amendment. If the Senators argue that it is subjectively wrong on biodiversity grounds, on ecological grounds, etc., to permit the cutting of hedges in the month of August, if that is their opening premise, then surely it is illogical to isolate roadside hedges on that basis. There is an illogicality in the motion. If it is logical to cut the roadside hedges, why would it not be logical to extend that facility to tillage or reseeding farmers?

The problem with the amendment is that it is neither one thing nor another, that it makes no sense. Let me explain briefly. It makes no sense to this degree. If the Senators' contention is that one should not cut hedges in August, then one should eliminate all. If the Senators' contention is that in certain instances it is permissible, then it should be permissible in the case of reseeding, tillage and the roadside.

I appeal to my colleague to see reason and to think it through logically. I see a lawyer in front of me on the front bench of Fianna Fáil. She is the leader of the Fianna Fáil group. Surely a lawyer can appreciate the point I am making.

They are all lawyers in Fianna Fáil.

I meant it in the professional sense. She is a very eminent lawyer, and surely an eminent lawyer such as the Senator can see the illogicality of the position.

The eminence or lack of eminence of the lawyer has nothing to do with the amendment.

It is a totally-----

He might have said "liar".

The position does not stand up to logic. I want the Fianna Fáil Senators to think logically and reasonably. Assuming the amendment passes tonight, I have anecdotal evidence to suggest there will be amendments in the Dáil to restore the status quo. I have heard anecdotally that will happen. It could well be proposed from the Fianna Fáil benches. Do Senators realise that will mean a 90-day delay? It will be three full months until it returns to the Seanad and we begin the merry-go-round again. It is a total waste of the House's time and resources. We should address the question forthrightly when it is before the House. Senators must go completely against it or make no illogical amendments.

Where is the majority in the Dáil?

There are three very important points. The amendment makes no sense. It is neither one nor the other.

Which amendment is the Senator referring to?

The one we are discussing.

There is a group of them.

I am referring to amendment No. 3b. It makes no sense. The second problem is that is a delaying thing, to the extent that common sense will prevail in the Dáil. Its illogicality will become clear, it will be reversed and it will come back here.

We have seen it delayed here for the past three months.

We are a year on with nothing achieved.

We are trying to make progress. We have been delayed for the past three months.

We are a year on with no progress made. The final reason the amendment is verging on the farcical is that what we are talking about here is a pilot scheme. We are proposing a pilot scheme.

It is like hell.

It is effectively a pilot scheme.

It is a pilot scheme and-----

It cannot be a pilot scheme if it is across the country.

-----it will be monitored.

It is across the country.

Objective evidence will emerge. I say to the proposers of the amendment that it is time to see reason and withdraw it.

What happens in the Dáil is none of our concern.

We will make it twist.

If it comes back here, sin scéal eile.

The responsibility we have here is to ensure the legislation that comes out of the Seanad is robust and correct. What happens in the Dáil happens in the Dáil. We have a responsibility to make sure we pass the best possible legislation here. The Fianna Fáil amendment is an improvement. If we are talking about a pilot scheme, amendment No. 3c, which is in my name, proposes that it be "in such part or parts of the State as specified in the regulations, but covering an area no greater than 10 per cent of the hedgerows in the State". That allows a pilot scheme. It covers 10% of the nation. We could call that a pilot scheme. We cannot call a scheme in the Twenty-six Counties a pilot scheme. Amendment No. 3c gives the Minister the option of doing a proper pilot scheme in a small part of the area of the country.

Is amendment No. 3 being pressed?

We have actually debated it.

I accept that. They are all to be dealt with separately. Is amendment No. 3 being pressed?

It is not being pressed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3a:

In page 12, lines 2 and 3, to delete ", grubbing or destroying otherwise".

I moved the amendment but I will not press it because the Minister has indicated that she will come back on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 3b is in the name of Senators Paul Daly and Brian Ó Domhnaill and has already been discussed.

May I speak on some of these amendments? I did not have an opportunity.

If I allow the Minister in, everyone else can come in because they have already been debated. That is the difficulty I am in.

I did not get to speak to any of the amendments in this group.

They are not being pressed.

I presumed the Minister had spoken.

Perhaps the Minister's points can be made when she speaks on the next section. It is important she is able to make her points, so perhaps she can do that later.

I was out for the last half hour before we adjourned. Do Senators agree to allow the Minister to make her contribution without further debate?

It is not agreed. Is Senator Daly moving amendment No. 3b?

I move amendment No. 3b:

In page 12, line 4, to delete "land" and substitute "roadside".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 19.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Daly and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 3c:

In page 12, line 4, after "land" to insert the following:

"in such part or parts of the State as specified in the regulations, but covering an area no greater than 10 per cent of the hedgerows in the State".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 32.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Clifford-Lee, Lorraine.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lawless, Billy.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Céidigh, Pádraig.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Kevin Humphreys; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 4, 4a and 4b are related and may be discussed together.

I am withdrawing amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4a:

In page 12, to delete lines 11 to 13.

I am concerned about the fact that the pilot project could be extended for the foreseeable future, even though it would need a resolution of the House. We should have a pilot project and should then come back and consider new legislation to reflect what we learn from the project. I still do not believe we will have a pilot project in front of us on Report Stage but, were we to have one, it would need to have an expiry date. The practices in the project should not continue on an ongoing basis. We should either delete the point that it could be renewed or insert a limit, of perhaps no more than three more years, after which we would need new legislation reflecting the experience gained from the data gathering and impact assessment of which the Minister has spoken. I ask the Minister to indicate if she is open to an expiry date in the legislation to avoid allowing for ongoing indefinite renewal. In such a case, I would be happy to withdraw my amendments and come back on Report Stage to discuss what an appropriate expiry date would be.

I will also speak to amendment No. 4c. These are valuable points. I do not need to press them now and I will bring them forward on Report Stage but I am hoping that the Department will take on board these and other more nuanced amendments.

We are only discussing amendments Nos. 4a and 4b. The Senator is prepared to take these amendments to Report Stage so it is up to the Minister to appease her.

Two amendments were voted on and I did not get the opportunity to speak to them. I have been listening to Senators for 16 hours, I have provided extensive briefing and I have engaged constructively. The Chair put it to the floor that I be allowed to speak and Senator Norris said "No".

If that is what the Senator considers to be democracy then so be it, but it is not what I consider to be democracy. It is not funny. I have been here for 16 hours and will stay for as long as it takes. I have been very co-operative and I am disappointed.

I will outline my position on amendment No. 3b. Grubbing and flailing would not be permitted in August but if a farmer wanted to trim, he or she should be allowed to do so for one season's growth in the interest of land management and when reseeding or tillage is being carried out. This is an issue of trust. Do we trust our farmers, the custodians of the countryside, to act in a responsible manner? I trust them.

As regards amendments Nos. 4a and 4b, the Bill proposes that the provisions in section 8 on burning and hedge cutting will be in force for a pilot period of two years to allow my Department to monitor activity under the provisions and to gather the necessary scientific data. However, I am prepared to accept the Senator's amendment to extend the pilot period to three years, which should allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the provisions. Section 8(4) states that I must seek the approval of the Oireachtas, by way of resolution, for the extension of the two-year pilot phase. I am of the view that the period of the extension will be influenced by the various studies undertaken during the pilot phase so I cannot accept amendments Nos. 4a and 4b.

For clarification, I withdrew amendment No. 4 because it was predicated on amendment No. 2.

Amendment No. 4 was put forward on the basis of the baseline amendment being accommodated.

It did not make sense in the circumstances.

On amendments Nos. 4a and 4b, the decision will come before both Houses of the Oireachtas and a motion must be passed to extend the time limit. It will not be a case of being nodded through. A resolution has to be passed to say it can be extended for another period and if it is not approved, it will revert to the old legislation and the pilot period ceases.

Perhaps on Committee Stage we can discuss other more appropriate provisions than an Oireachtas resolution. I will withdraw the amendments for now but I will seek engagement across the House on what more appropriate renewal processes might be put in place.

I know that others have mentioned that it would be appropriate for an Oireachtas committee to examine the results of what happens after the pilot period expires. I believe clear limitations and terms for the pilot scheme must be stipulated in legislation. If we do so it would be hard to see how a pilot scheme with such scientific provisions could be renewed on a resolution base. We need to give an opportunity to amend and change rather than simply extend. With that said, I shall withdraw my amendment but will resubmit it on Report Stage.

I respect that decision. Senator Humphreys has indicated so I shall allow him to make a brief comment.

I shall be brief. The Minister asked the direct question of whether we trust farmers. Yes, I do. Do it trust the vast majority of citizens? Yes, I do but we still passed legislation to stop people breaking into our homes. We still need to pass legislation that will protect the environment. Do I trust the vast majority of farmers? Of course I do. This is not a them and us situation. We simply want to protect the countryside. I suggest that people stop trying to create division between groups. The vast majority of farmers are good, honest and hardworking people that protect the environment.

Senator Humphreys has made a general point. Do I take it that Senator Higgins is withdrawing her amendment No. 4a?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 4b not moved.

I was personally disappointed that the Minister was not allowed to speak on the last occasion. This is her Bill and a Government Bill. The behaviour was disrespectful and I personally apologise to her.

Seriously, this has been said several times before. Did the Cathaoirleach not hear what she said this time?

It was extraordinary that she was not allowed to speak. We have gone past that now and I regret it.

Amendment No. 4c is in the name of Senator Higgins. Amendments Nos. 4c, 5, a5a, a5b and 5a are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Is amendment No. 4c in section 8 or 9?

All of the other amendments are in section 9.

Yes, I accept that but I cannot do anything about the way amendments have been grouped. Amendment No. 4c is listed on the third additional list of amendments dated 27 March. The Senator will have to deal with amendment No. 4c now and we can bundle the others together in section 9.

I move amendment No. 4c:

In page 12, line 15 after “Act of 1976”, to insert the following:

“and any naturally occurring species including flora species protected under:

(a) the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012;

(b) any convention which Ireland has ratified;

(c) any Directive of the European Union; and

(d) any national provisions implementing paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) above.”.

It has been agreed that we will discuss the amendments together. I have been advised that she should not withdraw the amendment until the end after we have a general discussion. All of the amendments must be discussed together.

Are we discussing section 9-----

-----and section 8?

Amendments Nos. 5, a5a, etc. are all in section 9.

Would it not be better to finish discussing section 8?

The amendments are grouped together so the Senator can discuss them.

That makes no sense.

I understand that we have finished section 8.

Amendment No. 4c has been withdrawn.

Can we not finish section 8?

No, we are not. The amendments are all related. I cannot complete section 8 until all of the amendments have been dealt with together.

That is the way this matter has been put in front of me. Senator Higgins has the floor. She has confirmed that she wishes to withdraw amendment No. 4c but she can reserve that option until we reach it.

Amendments Nos. 5, a5a, a5b and 5a are related. The Senator can speak about any of them if she so wishes.

This is an unusual grouping. I imagine that we will be very tight for time if we want to finish and vote on section 8. I had decided to withhold a few of my points until we commenced making generally comments on the section, whether supported or opposed.

The Senator can speak on the section. I shall allow her to make further comments later.

Will I have a chance to briefly speak on section 8?

I also commiserate with the Minister. I had indicated previously, before the debate broke to go to Private Members' business, that I intended to speak and I, too, did not get an opportunity to speak. I regret that the Minister did not get an opportunity to respect either. I imagine we will get to speak on Report Stage.

In terms of these amendments, I have two key amendments in section 9 that relate to when we had the debate and conversation opened up by this Bill. Interestingly, many people have contacted us about this matter. Many of them are concerned, and the Minister has expressed her concern, at the way hedgecutting is carried out throughout the year, including the six months when hedgecutting is permitted. Numerous people have spoken, as has the Minister, about the use and inappropriate use of the flail. There have been clear messages about times when machines are used but there has been a lack of proper supervision and engagement.

My amendment a5a is quite reasonable. Again, I have been in no way prescriptive and have left it to the Minister to proscribe. My amendment suggests that the Minister may make regulations and she had indicated a desire and willingness to do so. I add that my amendment refers to overall regulations and not simply regulations for the pilot scheme. My amendment states:

The Minister may make regulations to set out the permissible use of certain machinery or certain classifications of machinery which may or may not be used for the purposes of cutting or maintaining hedgerows.

I tabled my amendment in ensure that we have good practice when it comes to cutting hedgerows. Interesting, we have heard quite detailed debate on good and bad practices. There can be good ways to cut hedges and we need to make sure that they are the predominant model.

If there is an opportunity to engage with the Minister then I shall not press my amendments. I am keen, as others are, to see this Bill conclude this Stage. I want an indication. This issue arose from the debates, communications and education that I have received on the practices used for hedge planting and hedgecutting.

Amendment No. a5b shares a similar concern. The amendment relates to something that we heard today. We have heard the emerging argument being made by tillage farmers. It is a fact that large scale tillage farmers make up a small fraction, and I apologise if my exact percentage is incorrect, but I believe it is under 5% of current farmers and I have heard that it may be 3.5%. It has been made very clear, certainly during this debate today, that they are clear and strong advocates for this Bill. In many cases they seem to drive this legislation. Some tillage farmers may not be in the GLAS scheme so they may not have the same vulnerabilities as other farmers. The following concern was expressed to me and I hate to think that it was a threat. What if these tillage farmers decide to use the six months where it is permissible to grub hedges and dig them up? Is that concern being considered? I am aware that regulation already exists that stipulate that where hedgerows are grubbed and removed they need to be matched by planting.

My amendment goes a step further. When we have large-scale removal and grubbing of hedges at any time of year then we weaken the case for all farmers when we go to Europe. The farming sector is struggling now. I have been surprised by how strongly the IFA has lobbied about this matter because it has other serious concerns to tackle. Along with others, I have championed its concerns in respect of agribusiness and the threat from Brexit. At this volatile time the IFA should seek to make allies rather than divide people. I imagine that many in the IFA will see beyond this single issue and consider the bigger picture of Ireland's agricultural well-being and future on which a large part depends on the CAP payment. As we know the Irish nominee to the European Commission, the agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, is actively proposing to further green the common agricultural payment. Ireland is strongly advocating for greening to form part of the common agricultural policy. We need to increase it because greening only forms one third of the payment that many farmers receive. We argue for that proportion to be increased because we know that other parts of farmers' productivity will come under pressure from British exports. That is a fact. The common agricultural policy and rules are very important.

The one greening measure that tillage farmers must comply with is the protection of hedgerows as an ecological focus area. That aspect is a condition that tillage farmers must comply with in order for them to receive the single farm payment. If persons grub hedges on a large scale they will diminish Ireland's overall case, as well as their case, to receive the payment.

My amendment may seem small but it is important.

The requirement is already there but it simply states that the Department should be notified, that the Minister would set out regulations as to when, and there may be valid reasons from time to time, the grubbing of more than 1 km of hedgerow would be allowed, and that those who grub more than 1 km of hedgerow without the permission of the Department, or whatever body under its aegis the Minister deems appropriate, would be committing an offence because they would be undoing the common agricultural good of our nation and other farmers.

I recognise my amendment may not be perfect and I am extremely happy to work with the Minister on it. I am trying to strengthen Ireland's case and the interests of all farmers in this respect. It is very important that large-scale tillage farmers who may choose to remove hedgerows on a large scale during the six months permitted do not do so without some due process, oversight and regulation. I am happy to withdraw the amendment if the Minister indicates she can engage with me on this issue between now and Report Stage.

I will withdraw amendment No. 5a, but I would be grateful if the Minister or her officials would enter dialogue on the amendment.

On amendments Nos. 4c and 5, the provisions in section 8 of the Bill, and the regulations I will make, on the burning and hedge cutting issues will take account of our obligations under the EU birds and habitats directives. Under other international nature conservation conventions and the Aarhus Convention on access to information on the environment, it would not be normal practice, and I outlined this earlier, to list these various directives or conventions in legislation. EU directives are binding on member states so there is no need to separately provide for them in legislation. Accordingly, I do not consider it is necessary to list the various directives, conventions and plans in the Bill.

On amendment No. a5a, I do not feel it is necessary for me as Minister to make regulations on cutting equipment for hedge cutting. I take the point, but it is very prescriptive. I can look at it. On amendment No. a5b, the current provisions in section 40 allow the grubbing and destruction of hedgerows from 1 September to the end of February. I will propose on Report Stage an amendment to prohibit the grubbing and destruction of hedgerows in August. I cannot see the point of requesting landowners or public bodies to obtain my consent to grub or destroy hedges of a certain length during the open season for cutting from September to the end of February. It appears like overregulation and I cannot accept the amendment.

Senator Higgins said she would withdraw amendment No. 4c.

To clarify, there is already regulation and a requirement that where hedges are grubbed during the six months they would be replaced.

I am asking for a joined-up approach between the existing regulations and their implementation. I will come back to it.

I apologise - I neglected to mention my other amendment, to which the Minister has responded, on the statutory requirements. A serious concern that emerged in the meetings we had on the Bill, and I appreciate the Department meeting me, was that the all-Ireland pollinator plan is not regarded as statutory or a binding concern. This is one of the areas I have asked the Minister to list. The Minister mentioned that the list of directives and obligations is already there, but unfortunately what I have learned is that the all-Ireland pollinator plan is not something that will automatically be considered.

I will withdraw the amendment for now, but I put the House on notice that I intend to put forward an amendment explicitly on the all-Ireland pollinator plan. Will the Minister indicate that she intends to take its recommendations very seriously even though they are not, as I have been told by the Department, on a statutory basis? This is something of very serious concern to me. We heard from the beekeepers, from those in the butterfly movement and with regard to birds that pollination is absolutely crucial not just for the flourishing of our nature and wildlife, but also for the horticultural business and for food production in Ireland. Pollination is not a whimsical notion. It is the core of how we actually have thriving agriculture. It is green Ireland and it is what we put out there. Will the Minister indicate she takes the plan seriously? I will withdraw the amendment for now but I will table an amendment on Report Stage explicitly on the pollinator plan. I will probably also table Report Stage amendments on further tightening regulations on gorse fires and how they are managed because this is the section of the Bill into which they are likely to go.

The Senator will withdraw amendment No. 4c and the Minister understands where she is coming from.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

We have not reached that.

We are going along. The Senator has dealt with amendment No. 4c by withdrawing it. We have spoken about all of the amendments and we must now dispose of the section.

We have not discussed the section which is opposed.

The Senator is entitled to speak on section 8.

I will not speak at length on section 8. The case has not been made for section 8. The amendment tabled by Fianna Fáil somewhat improves and ameliorates the damage in the section. I will still oppose the section even though it has been amended. The message was sent out on the idea that people would vote on a single issue. I believe people very much have been listening and I commend Fianna Fáil because although it did not agree with us on large parts of section 8, nonetheless it engaged with all stakeholders respectfully on it. It has not come to the point of being able to support our amendments, and I regret this, but respectful engagement with the full farming community and the full community of rural Ireland and the rest of the population of Ireland is very important and I commend it in this regard. This is why I supported the amendment although I oppose the section.

This is our last chance to speak on section 8 and I must highlight this point. The section on gorse fires has not been addressed. Anybody who read the newspapers this week would have seen stories about burning gorse in March. In my part of the country in Connemara, the electricity supply cable to the Aran Islands was damaged by uncontrolled gorse fires in Carraroe. In Donegal, the primary water source for Donegal in Lough Fad was endangered by gorse fires. In County Louth, fire crews battled overnight to prevent the spread of gorse fires to forestry land. The EPA has raised serious concerns about the damage done by gorse fires.

If there is anything on which we need to gather statistics it is certainly this, but we know that in Cork, where statistics have been gathered, from 2012 to 2015 the cost of responding to illegal gorse fires to the fire services was €750,000. This is huge public expenditure. We have heard much talk about pilot programmes. I am very concerned that the section allows burning, and I know the Minister says part or parts of, but there is real concern that we could see a further escalation of this burning in March. We could see the incidents which have happened and got out of hand here multiplied further because there will be a sense of greater permission for burning in March.

I would also point out, to those who would speak to the wet February that we had, that we had one of the driest Octobers and Novembers in history. In Scotland, where they have sought to engage with this same issue, significant regulation around this has been brought in. Burning in Scotland is done in October and November. It is done in autumn. There is no reason we cannot have controlled burning taking place in October or November. It is the practice elsewhere. It is a more appropriate practice. There is no need to extend this into March.

We have already heard about the nesting seasons. On some further interests we have heard, the EPA and other groups have raised concern, in particular, that there is an issue with burning in February already, which many people believe should not happen. This is of concern because when there is burnt ground in February or March, it does not simply endanger nests and fledglings that may already be on the ground there, but it also damages the habitat. We have heard that many species will not nest on ground that has recently been burnt. A whole habitat, which is relied on for nesting, is destroyed. There is a real concern.

I am conscious that I should signal that we may table detailed amendments on section 8, because we did not specifically put amendments forward besides our general opposition. We would be remiss if we said that this was somehow okay or fine. There are massive issues in this area and it is something that needs to be looked at very seriously. As I said, I will certainly be seeking to tighten the regulations. I know the Minister has said that these are illegal fires in many cases but there is a concern that, if we open the season further, the danger, jeopardy and cost to the public will be increased.

I acknowledge the Minister's engagement on this issue and her openness to the removal of the term "grubbing or destroying otherwise" from the Bill. We should acknowledge the progress we have made in the Seanad in respect of the debate. Unfortunately, I am not convinced about the pilot scheme. I just do not see it there, across the 26 counties, so I cannot in honesty vote for this section of the Bill. As Senator Higgins has pointed out, we have not even touched upon upland burnings in March. In respect of climate change, things are moving so rapidly. We have seen the change of seasons already and we have seen nesting patterns change.

I believe that this Bill could be improved and strengthened if it could go to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to allow the different stakeholders to come in and give evidence at that stage. It could inform the Bill further and possibly strengthen it. We pretty much just get soundbites in here, which is not meant as a criticism of anyone, but by carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny, we could allow those stakeholders to come in and talk honestly and openly about their concerns. I think the Bill would be better for it. That gives both sides, the farming community and the environmentalists, their say. It is a way we can move on. Like many other Senators, I have been doing my own research, but it is not as comprehensive as what we could find out through pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill should go ahead without section 8. Section 8 should go for pre-legislative scrutiny where we can have a really positive engagement to make this as strong as possible.

I thank all the Senators here for their co-operation and hard work in improving the Bill. I would also like to acknowledge that we have often killed off that divisive language, townies as opposed to urban or anything like that, and that we are actually working for the betterment of our environment, both for the farming community and the urban community.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 17.

  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.

Níl

  • Black, Frances.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dolan, John.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Lynn Ruane.
Question declared carried.
NEW SECTIONS

Section 9 amends section 40(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976, lines 17 to 21, page 12. It is a simple tidying-up exercise which updates the collective citations for fisheries legislation and replaces the reference to the Central Fisheries Board, which is now Inland Fisheries Ireland. Following further consultation with the Attorney General's office, however, I have been informed that the changes proposed in section 9 were already included in the Inland Fisheries Act 2010. Therefore I will bring an amendment on Report Stage to delete section 9 from the Bill.

Is there a reason it should not be deleted now?

It is a very good point.

A very valid point was made. Is there any reason it cannot be deleted now rather than on Report Stage?

We did not have an amendment tabled so we will do so on Report Stage if that is all right.

If the section itself is being deleted the Minister does not have to table an amendment. It just goes.

Okay. That is fine.

(Interruptions).

To deal with our housekeeping properly, I have to go through all the amendments that have been moved individually. Then, if the Minister wishes, we can agree to delete section 9 if the Seanad so wishes. I had dealt with amendment No. 4c. We are now on amendment No. 5.

Did Senator Alice-Mary Higgins indicate that she was going to withdraw amendment No. 5?

I said I would withdraw it and that I would be tabling a version of it on Report Stage taking account of comments made on it.

Amendments Nos. 5 to 5a, inclusive, not moved.
Question, "That section 9 be deleted", put and agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 12, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“10. (1) Section 40(2) of the Act of 1976 is amended by inserting the following:

“(g) the removal or destruction of vegetation required by a notice served by a local authority under section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended).”.

(2) Section 40 of the Act of 1976 is amended by adding after subsection 40(2) the following:

“(2A) Any activity undertaken under Section 40(2), by a public authority or any activity authorised by them in the interests of public health and safety is required to be notified to the Minister by the public authority responsible for the execution or authorising of such works, and shall outline:

(a) The public health and/or safety concern or other rationale as to why the works need to be undertaken during the prohibited period together with supporting evidence in this regard; and

(b) How such works were strictly limited to those necessary, and were undertaken in a manner so as to limit the negative impacts on biodiversity where possible, or any issues in respect of such considerations.”.

(3) Section 70(1)(b) of the Roads Act 1993 is amended by inserting the following:

“(c) (i) where there is a risk to public health and safety from a structure on the land to the safe use of a public road or the maintenance of the public road, any party including a land owner or occupier of land, may apply to a local authority to serve a notice in writing in accordance with this section on the owner or occupier of any land on which the structure is situated to remove, modify or carry out specified works in relation to the structure within the period stated in the notice. The local authority shall consider the necessity of such works and determine whether to issue a notice accordingly. Such works shall be considered exempted for the purposes of section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended);

(ii) the local authority shall comply with all legislative obligations, screenings, assessments and notifications necessary to the making of any such a notice; and

(iii) the notice shall contain details of—

(a) the precise location of the issue to be addressed,

(b) the precise nature of the issue to be addressed, and

(c) precisely what remedial work needs to be carried out;

(iv) where notification is during the closed period for hedge-cutting specified in section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended) detailed guidance on biodiversity considerations shall be included;

(v) the local authority shall notify the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, with responsibility for Natural Heritage of the making of any such notice, at the same time it notifies the land owner or occupier of the land.”.”.

We spoke on this amendment such a long time ago so I beg the indulgence of the Chair. I seek clarification for those who have not signed the amendment which is quite long and complex and who may wish to put forward their own version of a road safety amendment on Report Stage. This is a complex amendment which includes a number of provisions. Will we still be free on Report Stage to put forward our own version of a road safety amendment which might be worded somewhat differently?

Yes. That appears clear, if the Senator wants to table an amendment on Report Stage.

I reserve the right to do so. I have not signed the amendment.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 25.

  • Devine, Máire.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Warfield, Fintan.

Níl

  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Hopkins, Maura.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Grace O'Sullivan; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and James Reilly..
Amendment declared lost.
SECTION 10
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

We are on section 10. The Minister might wish to comment before I put the question.

I do not intend to propose an amendment here but I intend to table a small textual amendment on Report Stage to subsection 3(e)(ii), on page 15, lines 25 to 29, on occasions where authorised officers know or suspect that a vehicle in particular has been used in committing an offence.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 11

I move amendment No. 6a:

In page 18, to delete lines 9 to 12.

Does the Minister wish to comment on amendment No. 6a on section 11 in the name of Senators Kevin Humphreys, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Grace O'Sullivan and others?

I intend to table an amendment to section 11 on Report Stage to retain certain provisions in section 69(3)(c) of the Wildlife Act. The other repeals relate to provision penalties in both the 2000 and 2010 wildlife legislation, which are updated in this Bill, and consequently the repeal stands. I also wish to advise the House that I will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage to section 44 of the Wildlife Act, which includes provisions on the unlawful hunting and entry onto lands. The amendment that I will propose will involve a small technical change to the text of the section, clarifying the powers of authorised officers of my Department or a member of An Garda Síochána to bring prosecutions for unlawful hunting with animals.

Is amendment No. 6a being pressed?

To clarify, the concern was that there was an inadvertent perception that the Bill, as it was currently drafted, could potentially allow for an assault on a National Parks and Wildlife Service officer. It could inadvertently repeal the legislation which makes an assault on a National Parks and Wildlife Service officer an offence. I imagine that is not intended and I recognise that the Minister has recognised the potential inadvertent consequence. We are happy to work with the Minister to ensure that is addressed. We have to value our very important National Parks and Wildlife Service officers.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12

Amendment No. 7 in the name of Senator Grace O'Sullivan has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

I do not propose an amendment here at this time. However, I intend to move two further amendments on Report Stage to the effect that the upper, middle and lower lakes of Killarney would be considered part of the property comprising the part of the Muckross Estate that was conveyed to the State in 1932 under the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932, and certain national parks will be formally vested in the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

To clarify, that amendment proposed that there-----

That is out of order and I cannot allow it.

We reserve the right to put forward an amendment that is not out of order.

Question put and agreed to.
Question, "That the Schedule be the Schedule to the Bill", put and declared carried.
Question, "That the Title be the Title to the Bill", put and declared carried.
Bill reported with amendments.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 4 April 2017.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 March 2017.