First I wish to acknowledge the Deputy's comments on the recent traditional music festival. I also give my thanks to Mary and Mícheál Harty.
As the Deputy knows, the provisions under section 7 of the Heritage Act 2018 allow for the making of regulations relating to burning and cutting hedgerows. Section 7(1) of the Heritage Act 2018 provides that, as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I may make regulations to allow the burning of vegetation during certain periods in the month of March and in such parts of the country as specified in the Regulations.
I made a decision last February not to make regulations to extend the season for the burning of vegetation into March 2019. This decision was taken as there would have been no basis for me to do so given the fact that the relatively dry weather during the six-month period when the burning of vegetation could have been undertaken under the law, that is, September to February, inclusive, would not have precluded landowners from burning vegetation. The existing provisions on burning in the Wildlife Acts therefore remained in force for March 2019.
Regarding hedgerows, subsection 7(2) of the Heritage Act 2018 includes the power to make regulations to allow the cutting of roadside hedges during the month of August subject to conditions. In July I announced that I would not be proceeding with the making of such regulations this year. My decision recognised the increasing threats to biodiversity nationally and globally and follows a number of Government initiatives to protect and nurture Ireland's flora and fauna.
There was extensive public debate and engagement by my Department and myself on this matter including during the national biodiversity conference in Dublin earlier this year, which I hosted together with the Irish forum on natural capital. Arising from this conference, the Seeds for Nature initiative, which comprised a range of initiatives for nature and biodiversity, was launched. In addition, there was a wide public consultation on the Heritage Ireland 2030 plan, debates in the Dáil on biodiversity loss and the extensive engagement across Government on climate action, including on the part of my Department. The report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action made a number of references to the importance of hedgerows.
Notwithstanding my decision not to make regulations to allow hedge cutting in August, I should point out that it is possible in accordance with the provisions of the Heritage Act 2018 and the Roads Act 1993 to cut roadside hedges in circumstances where road safety issues arise.