I thank the Ceann Comhairle for choosing this Topical Issue because it is very important. I want to acknowledge that the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, is a Trojan worker in his Department and I respect that very much.
Killarney National Park is being neglected and not enough resources are being put into its maintenance and care. I will be glad to give the Minister of State examples of how our national park is suffering from lack of investment. The rhododendrons are taking over completely despite programmes of work over the years to cut them. The deer population has exploded in recent years. The last survey I could find was carried out in 2008 and it showed that, in the previous 30 years, the red deer population had increased by 565% and the sika deer population by 353%. Have any further studies been carried out since 2008 on the deer population and, if not, is there the intention to carry one out in 2017? Despite the reinstating of the nature trails, many of the markers along the trails are missing and the trails need to be upgraded. Knockreer gardens at Knockreer House have suffered years of neglect. Dinah's cottage and the adjacent toilets need to be opened as soon as possible. Most importantly, the number of park rangers has been reduced from nine to four, with two more to retire next year. This is simply not good enough. I want to acknowledge the excellent work that has been done by the park rangers and the work of those such as the groundspersons who were there in the past.
The resource we have is the beautiful national park in Killarney. We all know Killarney is not the tourism capital of Kerry, of Ireland or of Europe; it is the tourism capital of the world. I want to put that on the record of the House. There is no place better in this world than Killarney and its national park.
I acknowledged the Minister of State at the outset. He is not a good politician; he is a Trojan worker and an excellent politician. However, I want him to become a martyr for our national park by ensuring that the resources it requires will be deployed. It is crying out for maintenance. When trees fall in the national park, they are left to rot. I have raised this issue in the Chamber and I have been told it is good for biodiversity to have them rotting on the ground and to have the snails and creepy-crawlies going through them. That is rubbish. We need that timber to be taken out and for the area to be cleaned up. We need to keep the place nice and clean, as the people long ago did before us. Great resources were put into this before but people are now inclined to think that, when it comes to the national park, we can close the gates and let it go and not maintain the deer population or aggressively attack the rhododendrons.
The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park has become so bad that nothing short of calling in the Army is going to put it right because so many resources are needed to put it in order. The park is a magnificent resource. It is something Killarney people and other Kerry people have prided themselves on over the years. I want to compliment what I would call the conservationists who have stood up for the national park over the years, people like Kevin Tarrant and others from Killarney town who have given a lifetime of commitment to ensuring the national park is preserved for future generations. I plead with the Minister of State to put in place the necessary resources.