Cavan): This Bill is designed to provide an up-to-date and effective statutory framework for wildlife conservation in this country. It is a comprehensive and, indeed, a complex measure but I trust that the detailed explanatory memorandum which I have made available will have given Senators a clearer appreciation of the objectives of the Bill and a better understanding of the many proposals for their attainment.
Before dealing in detail with the objectives of the Bill, I should say that there has been in recent years persistent pressure by various interested bodies for the introduction of up-to-date legislation for the protection and conservation of wildlife. When it is realised that a period of 45 years has elapsed since the enactment of any major measure concerning wild fauna, one cannot but have sympathy with that pressure and also with the criticism which was voiced at the delay in finalising the Bill.
It is true that the Bill has had a lengthy period of gestation but I do hope that the wide-ranging scope of the measure now before the House— and its implications for many other Government Departments besides my own—will go some way towards indicating why it was necessary in this instance to devote more than the normal preparatory period to the formulation of these legislative proposals. In this connection I should like to pay tribute to the work done by my predecessors in the earlier stages of preparation of the Bill.
As Senators will, no doubt, be aware, nature conservation is a subject which is nowadays receiving increasing attention from the various international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, whose mandate includes the protection and management of the environment. In the environmental programmes of inter-governmental agencies like the United Nations, the EEC and the Council of Europe, nature conservation is given a prominent place and the activities of these organisations in this sphere are of considerable interest to Ireland as a member State.
My Department have for some years been associated with these programmes. The Department are also affiliated to various non-governmental agencies such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Hunting Council, the International Waterfowl Research Bureau, and so on, which specialise in different aspects of wildlife conservation and hunting. Participation in all of these organisations inevitably gives rise to an increasing involvement by my Department in their activities and it is imperative that a solid statutory basis be provided if we are to fulfil satisfactorily our international responsibilities in this important sphere.
Apart altogether from any question of international obligations, however, the need for effective legislative machinery in the field of wildlife conservation is greatest when looked at from the stand-point of what is required at national level. While it is true that technological developments and increased urbanisation have already produced some detrimental effects on our heritage of wild fauna and flora, it is not yet by any means too late to embark on a positive, energetic conservation programme to safeguard that heritage for future generations.
Indeed, an on-going programme has been carried out with a modicum of success for some years, involving not only my Department but also a number of other State agencies. The centralisation in my Department of overall responsibility for wildlife conservation, as envisaged under this Bill, and the wide-ranging statutory powers being provided will enable that programme to be accelerated and intensified under the aegis of a single authority with a view to providing the necessary protection and control in this particular sector of the natural environment.
My Department, through their extensive ownership of land and sporting rights both by the Land Commission and the Forestry Division, have had inevitably some degree of involvement in the wildlife scene for many years. However, it was not until 1959, when responsibility for administration of the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1930, was transferred to them from the Department of Justice, that the Department began to assume a positive role in the sphere of game development and wildlife conservation generally. In the intervening years the Department have been engaged to an increasing extent in nature conservation, with emphasis on the game sector.
For a number of years this programme was carried out by a small unit operating within the framework of the Land Commission. In 1971, as a result of the impetus given to the nature conservation by European Conservation Year, 1970, and in anticipation of improved legislation, this unit was merged with the Forestry Division which has since come to be known as the Forest and Wildlife Service. This service, with its very substantial and widely-dispersed landholding throughout the country and its experienced complement of personnel trained in the natural sciences, is now the main State agency for wildlife conservation. However its activities have largely been based on the two 1930 Acts to which I have referred. While these Acts represented enlightened forward thinking at that early stage of the development of the State, their limitations for present-day needs are understandable.
Nevertheless, despite these limitations, it has been possible to achieve some success. The game development programme operated through a country-wide network of regional game councils and the establishment of a national network of bird sanctuaries— including, of course, the internationally important Wexford wildfowl reserve—are practical examples. However, it is abundantly clear that if worthwhile progress is to be made, from either the national or international standpoints, in an area where so much still remains to be done, an expanded, modern and more effective statutory mechanism is urgently necessary. This is what the Bill now before the House aims to provide.
Against that rather capsuled historical background I will now set out more fully the principal aims of the Bill and the effects of its individual provisions. The proposals have, in fact, six major objectives: these are clearly defined in the explanatory memorandum already circulated and I think I cannot do better than to repeat them here. They are as follows:
1. To provide an adequate statutory basis for wildlife—fauna and flora— conservation and to define the role of the Minister for Lands in that sphere.
2. To provide effective machinery for the conservation of areas having specific wildlife values.
3. To make appropriate provision for the better protection of wild fauna and flora.
4. To provide an up-to-date framework for (a) development and protection of our game resources (b) regulation of the exploitation of these resources and (c) regulation of trafficking in fauna, especially game species, and flora.
5. To facilitate a unification of existing services within the Department of Lands dealing with forestry, conservation and allied amenity, matters.
6. To provide a firm statutory backing to modern concepts of the uses to which State forest lands may be applied and to provide an improved land acquisition procedure in this context.
To show how it is proposed to achieve these objectives I shall now deal with the various sections of the Bill, partly to elaborate on the explanation already given in the explanatory memorandum and partly to indi cate the thinking behind some of the proposals.
The group of sections, viz. sections 1 to 10, inclusive, in Part I of the Bill, are largely of a routine nature and do not call for detailed comment. Perhaps the most interesting provisions in this group are sections 2 and 10. The former provides a very comprehensive set of definitions for purposes of the Bill; the latter deals with the repeal of existing legislation as listed in the First Schedule. The repeals include the two 1930 Acts to which I have already referred and also a number of old statutes which by present-day concepts fall into the ancient category. Thus when the Bill becomes law the main corpus of legislation relating to wildlife conservation will be embodied in a single modern Act.
In Chapter I of Part II the real substance of the proposals in the Bill begins to emerge. Section II defines, for the first time, the basic role of the Minister for Lands in the whole sphere of wildlife consevation and sets out the general powers envisaged to enable him to exercise that role more effectively. That a genuine need exists for such comprehensive statutory powers with a view to furthering the interests of wildlife conservation will scarcely be denied at this juncture. The powers in question embrace such aspects of wildlife conservation as providing assistance and advice, managing—by agreement—lands not in State ownership, entering into agreements, participating in various schemes, providing grants and loans, promoting conservation projects, engaging in research and educational aspects of wildlife conservation, and so on. It is scarcely necessary for me to deal in any detail with these clearly defined powers but I think a few comments of a general nature will not be amiss at this stage.
It is true, as I have said already, that a certain degree of progress in wildlife conservation has already been achieved despite the severe handicap of inadequate legislation. That this has been possible is due in no small way to the valuable co-operation and assistance given by a number of voluntary organisations whose interests centre around specific aspects of wildlife. I am thinking, in particular, of bodies such as the Irish Wildbird Conservancy, the regional game councils and their national association, the Irish Deer Society and others.
I pay tribute to all these groups for their past interests, encouragement and support and I would like to assure them that the powers given under the Bill, and under section 11, in particular, far from diminishing the need for a continuation of such co-operation in the future, will leave my Department in a much stronger position than heretofore to work in harmony with them towards the attainment of mutual objectives.
I referred briefly to educational aspects of wildlife conservation. It is perhaps as well to make it clear that my concern in this sphere is not so much with education in the formal sense, with which my Department are not directly concerned, but rather with the broader question of encouraging a greater degree of public understanding and appreciation of nature conservation generally, and of wildlife values in particular.
The success of a Bill of this kind will inevitably depend largely on the volume of public sympathy and support which it can generate and it will be the policy of my Department to continue to use every means of publicity at their disposal—for example, through lectures, films, handouts, exhibits and so on—to promote this ideal. I may say that the Forest and Wildlife Service has, in fact, already achieved some success on this front. Moreover the tremendous public response in an allied sphere—the opening up of the State forests with their multiple facilities for public recreation and education—clearly indicates that there is a vast reservoir of goodwill for a sound wildlife conservation programme.
My final general comment at this juncture concerns the special contribution which the farming community can make towards wildlife conservation. This springs from their ownership of, and association with, a sizeable part of the habitat which is vital to the survival of so much of our wildlife. Implementation of this Bill will inevitably impose constraints on many different interests but I think Senators will agree that every effort has been made to avoid unduly restricting bona fide agricultural operations.
I have no doubt that those engaged in farming will do everything they can to ensure that wildlife continues to survive but I would appeal to them especially on two counts—first, to keep the habitat requirements of wildlife in mind when planning their agricultural programmes and, secondly, to do nothing which would interfere with rare or threatened species.
After those few general remarks I shall now move on to section 12. The purpose of this section is to place an obligation on various public bodies— for example, Government Departments, local authorities, Commissioners of Public Works and certain semi-State bodies—to consult the Minister for Lands before deciding on any action or undertaking any project which might have a detrimental effect on nature reserves or refuges for fauna which will be established under sections 15, 16 and 17 of the Bill. These areas will be chosen for their special wildlife values and it will be very important to see that such sites are subsequently safeguarded to the utmost extent practicable. The system of consultation provided for in section 12 will help to ensure this.
However, as the restriction may prove to be unduly severe in certain circumstances, it is proposed to allow a few exemptions—for example, where a particular activity has to be undertaken as an emergency measure or where it would unnecessarily cut across the operation of certain aspects of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. The activities of the Commissioners of Public Works under the Arterial Drainage Acts are also excluded but there are separate specific provisions to cater for these in section 43, which I will mention later.
Section 13 provides for the establishment of a Wildlife Advisory Council. I attach particular importance to this proposal. It goes without saying that any broadly-based programme of wildlife conservation involves, apart from the Forest and Wildlife Service, a wide diversity of interests—scientific, agricultural, cultural, sporting and so on —each of which can make a special and worthwhile contribution towards the formulation of policy and the settlement of objectives. I visualise the council as providing an effective forum for a widely-representative group whose combined talents and expertise will ensure a steady flow of advice and guidance for my Department's on-going conservation programme. Section 13 is so drafted as to permit a very broad range of participation; and, in appointing the members of the council, it will be my aim to strike the best possible balance between those who will represent the various relevant scientific disciplines and those for whose selection practical experience at grassroots level will be the principal criterion.
Section 14 is an enabling measure to permit, should such a course at any time be necessary, the setting up of boards to administer any service which the Minister will be empowered to provide after the Bill becomes law. As of now the establishment of any such board is not envisaged, but the practical scope of wildlife conservation and game development is sufficiently far-reaching to warrant the inclusion of this enabling power to meet possible future needs. And, having catered for the contingency of setting up such boards, it is of course important to spell out in some detail the various provisions which would apply as regards their constitution, practical operation, and so on. For convenience these are grouped together to form the Second Schedule to the Bill.
Perhaps the most notable defect in existing legislation was the virtual absence of any statutory measures for conservation of wildlife habitat, as distinct from mere protection of species. One of the fundamental aims of the Bill is to remedy this deficiency and we have already seen, in section 12, one small step in this direction.
Chapter II, which I shall go on to deal with now, is directly concerned with this vital sector.
Sections 15 and 16 can be conveniently taken together. Section 15 relates to the establishment of nature reserves on lands owned by the Minister for Lands or by the State; section 16 is concerned with the recognition of similar areas in private ownership. In the selection of these sites the overriding consideration will be their scientific values as habitats of fauna or flora or a combination of such features. My Department have already made some tentative progress on this front in anticipation of the enactment of this legislation.
As regards flora, some representative samples of native sessile oak woodlands have been set aside for dedication as nature reserves. In regard to fauna, a wildfowl reserve of international significance has been established on lands jointly owned by my Department and the Irish Wildbird Conservancy at the North Slob, Wexford, where the primary concern is for the Greenland White-fronted goose. The passage of the Bill will enable these and other nature reserves to be formally established.
I am very glad to say that enthusiasm and concern for setting aside suitable properties as nature reserves has not been allowed to rest entirely with the State. It is heartening to know that some private individuals and organisations have already shown very commendable enterprise in dedicating lands, invariably at considerable personal expense, to the cause of wildlife conservation. This is a development to be welcomed wholeheartedly. But a mere welcome is scarcely sufficient and it is only fitting that under section 16 of the Bill it will be possible to go a step further by giving this sort of initiative a well-deserved formal recognition.
Sections 15 and 16, with which I have just dealt, provide a mechanism for safeguarding wildlife habitats where scientific interest is the dominant consideration. However there are some places throughout the country which might not qualify, either because of the ownership situation or the particular wildlife value concerned, for the rather special status of nature reserve but which are nonetheless particularly worthy of positive protective measures. It is proposed to protect habitats of this kind by designating them as refuges for fauna under section 17 of the Bill.
I realise of course that a proposal of this kind could have far-reaching implications for the landowners concerned. For that reason, an elaborate procedure is contemplated as a preliminary to the making of a designation order. The first requirement entails consultation with other State agencies concerned and this will be followed by publication of a notice of intention to make the designation order. This notice must indicate the species of fauna proposed to be protected, the lands involved and, perhaps most important of all, the protective measures to be adopted.
Interested parties will have ample opportunity to object to the making of the order and all such objections will be fully considered by the Minister before the matter is decided. Parties aggrieved by the making of a designation order will be entitled to compensation, depending on whether their claims stem from an interest in the lands or from some other source, but compensation will be assessed on the basis of diminution of value, loss or disadvantage arising from the protective measures set out in the order.
I should perhaps mention here that the importance attached to both nature reserves and refuges is such that offences under the Bill committed on these sites will carry special penalties. I shall refer further to this particular point when I come to deal with the penalty provisions in section 74.
The final section in Chapter II regarding habitat protection is section 18. This relates to the drawing up of management agreements intended to restrict the user of land by owners or occupiers in such a way as will benefit the interests of wildlife conservation. Such agreements, if they were to run only for the lifetime of the current owners or occupiers, would not always achieve the desired results but subsection (4) is so designed as to enable agreements to be drawn up in such a way as to bind successors in title, thereby ensuring permanence for the commitment of the land to the cause of wildlife conservation.
The effect of these agreements would be that, in consideration of agreed monetary compensation—payable either as a lump sum or by way of annual payments—land would be managed in such a way as not to impair its inherent wildlife values. Such an arrangement could mean that a person would, for example, undertake not to drain the land or build on it or alter its physical characteristics in some other way. It goes without saying that the type of landowner likely to be interested in entering into agreements of this kind will largely be people who are already keenly interested in wildlife conservation but even if it were to result in safeguarding only a few vital habitats, the inclusion in the Bill of section 18 would be well justified.
Whereas Chapter II of Part I of the Bill, which I have just dealt with, was concerned with various habitat conservation measures, Chapter III deals with the general protection of fauna and flora. As there are a number of sections in this chapter relating to fauna and only one directly concerned with flora, perhaps I should begin by dealing with the flora item, section 21.
The basic intention here is to provide an enabling power whereby species of flora in need of protection can be made the subject of protection orders by the Minister, either throughout the State or in specific areas, following which it will be an offence to interfere with the flora or their habitats save under licence from the Minister. The primary objective is to provide a measure of statutory protection for flora at national level which will augment certain conservation powers already vested in planning authorities under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963. This does not reflect any unnecessary overlapping. In practice the Minister for Lands will be concerned with rare species of flora, and their habitats, from the national viewpoint and planning authorities will continue to exercise their existing powers in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
The importance of flora in the overall context of wildlife conservation frequently tends to be overshadowed by the more popular concern for fauna. The combined effects of the dual functions to which I have just referred will be to strengthen substantially the present inadequate statutory position in so far as flora is concerned.
I will now turn to the provisions in the Bill for protection of fauna, starting with wild birds. In this connection I think it will be found helpful to read sections 19 and 22 together.
Section 19 is the blanket provision under which it is proposed to protect all wild birds, including their nests and eggs, except the pest species listed in the Third Schedule; but under subsection (2) of section 22 it will be possible to add to or take from the species mentioned in the Third Schedule as circumstances require. Section 22 then goes on, in subsections (4) and (5), to make it an offence to hunt, capture or kill protected wild birds, with suitable exemptions for agricultural, forestry, fishery and certain other activities and for the humane treatment of injured wild birds.
Subsection (6) may call for some degree of explanation. Under section 42, with which I will be dealing more fully in due course, there are provisions to meet situations where damage is being caused by fauna to agricultural and other interests. These provisions include a procedure for the granting of permission by the Minister to a person whose property is being damaged to capture or kill the offending animal or bird. However it may sometimes be necessary for a landowner to act promptly—on the grounds that remedial action is urgently necessary—without having obtained such permission and in doing so he may find that he has to kill a protected wild bird. The effect of subsection (6) of section 22 will be to exonerate such person from an offence except where the bird in question is one of the limited number of rare or threatened species listed in the First Part of the Fourth Schedule to the Bill.
Sections 20 and 23 contain, in relation to the protection of specific wild animals, provisions broadly corresponding to those which apply to wild birds in sections 19 and 22. Here again it will be advantageous to read the two sections together. The intention is to protect all those species of wild animals which are listed in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill, and in this connection it will be noted that deer and otters are among the species which are to be given protection for the first time. The list of species in the Fifth Schedule may, under subsection (2) of section 23, be augmented or reduced as circumstances warrant.
It will be an offence to destroy the breeding place of protected wild animals or, save under licence, to hunt such animals; but there are appropriate exemptions under subsection (7) in favour of a variety of activities including agriculture, fishing, forestry and so on. Moreover, in line with the procedure already mentioned in the case of rare or threatened species of wild birds, there is a special provision in subsection (8) whereby landowners, and so forth, who find it a matter of urgent necessity to kill protected wild animals in order to protect their agricultural or other relevant interests, may do so without breaking the law provided that the animals in question do not come within the very short list of rare or threatened species consisting of the pine marten, red deer, seals and whales set out in Part II of the Fourth Schedule.
Sections 24 and 25 provide for the declaration of open seasons for certain protected wild birds and wild animals, that is, those which fall into the game category. There is provision for the imposition of bag limits, where necessary, in the interests of conservation of game stocks. The game species concerned will, by and large, be those which have traditionally been available to shooting men during the open seasons under the Game Preservation Act, 1930, with the addition of deer which, as I said, are now being protected for the first time and whose status will henceforth be upgraded from the vermin category to that of game.
The first part of section 26 is a corollary to the protection of deer and otters and provides for the licensing by the Minister of the hunting of these species with appropriate packs of hounds. The remainder of this section deals with the licensing of hunting of hares with beagles and harriers—traditional but not very extensive activities in this country—and the licensing of hare coursing, in accordance with approved rules of the Irish Coursing Club, outside the open season. I may say that my primary concern, where the hunting of deer, otters and hares is concerned, will be for the conservation of the species and I am satisfied that the powers sought under section 26 will provide the necessary degree of control.
We are very fortunate in this country that winter conditions are rarely of such severity as to pose a serious threat to wildlife populations. Occasionally, however—as happened, for example, in the winter of 1962-63 —we do experience a period of exceptionally severe weather which can take an inordinately heavy toll of our wild fauna, especially wild birds. Not only does this result in a serious decimation of our wildlife but it also subjects animals and birds to considerable hardship and suffering from cold and hunger in the process.
The extent to which a situation of this kind can be counteracted is unfortunately limited. However, section 27 is an attempt, in so far as game species are concerned, to prevent a serious situation from becoming worse. To allow game shooting to continue in such circumstances would manifestly be contrary to all canons of good sporting behaviour and, as appeals for voluntary restraint may not always elicit the desired total response, a statutory curtailment of open seasons is envisaged whenever weather conditions either at home or abroad are such as to present a definite threat to game stocks. Incidentally this provision will augment the power already available to the Minister for Justice to prohibit the use or carriage of firearms in similar circumstances and the exercise of both controls should effectively eliminate any abuse in this sector.
I shall now pass on to Chapter IV of Part II of the Bill. This chapter contains a wide variety of restrictions aimed at protecting wildlife. While most of these provisions will not require a great deal of elaboration on my part, sections 28 and 29, which are complementary, include innovations which will concern everybody who is interested in game shooting, be they our own resident sportsmen or visitors. Notwithstanding the information given in the explanatory memorandum, I feel that these particular proposals warrant some special comment.
Basically the objective in these two sections is to regulate the hunting of game species with firearms by (a) defining the categories of persons who may lawfully engage in this activity and (b) setting up a revised licensing system for such persons. The overall approach is based on the premise that there can be no such thing as "free shooting" and that anyone who hunts game on land without being the owner—or having the permission of the owner—of the shooting rights over that land is, to put it quite bluntly, guilty of poaching. Regrettably this is a practice which is all too prevalent.
For the past 15 years or so my Department have been directly involved, through the provision of financial support and technical advice, in a national programme of game development carried out by a network of regional game councils. The extent to which the joint effort put into this programme by the State and voluntary organisations can become frustrated by poaching is not difficult to understand and some preventive action is obviously desirable.
This is the general background to section 28, which seeks to define the various categories of persons who will in future be eligible for licences to hunt game, the main criterion for eligibility being ownership of game rights or authorisation by such owners. I think the range of qualified persons, as set out in section 28, will be found to embrace everybody who can genuinely claim to have an entitlement to a hunting licence.
The licensing system itself is provided for in section 29 and introduces a novel concept for this country, namely, a licence to hunt game with firearms, or, as it is better known, a game licence as distinct from a firearm certificate. Thus it is proposed to differentiate between the actual possession of a firearm and its use for shooting game.
Under section 29 anybody wishing to shoot game in this country in future must apply for a game licence and, in doing so, he will be required to make a declaration of his qualification within the ambit of section 28. The visiting sportsman who intends to shoot game species, whether wild birds or wild animals, must first seek and obtain a licence from the Minister for Lands for the purpose. The resident sportsman who wishes to shoot game animals other than hares must follow a similar procedure but where his interest is confined to wild birds and hares he will, as at present, be able to get his firearm certificate through the Garda Síochána, but with this difference: it will carry an endorsement which will have the effect of deeming the certificate to be a licence to hunt game birds and hares, that is, those species which have traditionally been regarded as game species. This procedure will in the case of the resident sportsman avoid the need to make separate applications for the firearms certificate and the game licence and will make for ease of administration.
The foregoing disposes of the basic objective of section 29 but there are a few other elements in it which I should mention.
Under subsection (7) a person aggrieved by the refusal of the Minister to grant or renew a game licence under subsections (1) and (2) will have an opportunity to appeal to the District Court.
Subsection (4) is aimed at making game licences, whether issued by the Minister or by the Garda, coterminous and this should go far towards eliminating a longstanding grievance by organised resident sportsmen. Put very simply, the basis of their complaint is that the firearm certificates granted to them annually expire on 31st July each year, irrespective of the date of issue, thus confining them to one season's shooting; whereas firearm certificates issued to no-residents run for 12 months from the date of issue, thereby making it possible for them to shoot through part of two open seasons. The proposed uniformity in subsection (4) will bring about a desirable adjustment.
Incidentally, reference to the subject of game shooting by visitors prompts me to mention that in the recent past my Department and Bord Fáilte have been jointly endeavouring to bring about a measure of control in this sector. The primary objective is the elimination of the objectionable, indiscriminate shooting which is carried on here from time to time by visiting parties—sometimes, indeed, with a degree of connivance on the part of certain local interests. As an interim measure arrangements were made with effect from 1st April last whereby, in agreement with the Department of Justice, all firearm certificates relating to visitors' shotguns are to be issued by my Department as agent of the Minister for Justice. Under the new procedure such certificates will be issued only to those applicants who can show that they have made advance bona fide arrangements for their shooting holiday in Ireland. The provisions of sections 28 and 29 of the Bill reflect, in so far as visiting game shooters are concerned, a further strengthening of this control.
I have now covered the main points in section 29 and I do not think I need dwell further on it at this stage. However, if Senators require further clarification of any of its provisions I shall be happy to furnish it.
Section 30 is designed to give the Minister control over hunting on foreshore owned by the State or on inland lakes and lakeshore accretions which vest in the State. Sometimes there is a doubt as to whether or not inland lakes are vested in the State but under a later provision of the Bill—section 57 —machinery is being provided which will help to remove that doubt in some instances. Some areas of foreshore and certain inland waters are frequently subjected to intense and indiscriminate shooting pressure, with serious detrimental effects in terms of disturbance of wildlife and damage to valuable habitats. The regulation of shooting in such areas is regarded as an important aspect of the wildlife conservation programme and, in order to bring this about, only persons who have obtained permission from the Minister will in future be entitled to hunt over such places without infringing the Act.
Section 31 is concerned with aviculture or, to be more precise, a particular aspect of this practice, namely, the breeding in captivity of certain wild perching birds. The business of dealing in exotic species will not be affected by this section, though a later provision relating to the import of fauna may do so to some extent. The intention is to prevent the sale of species which occur in the wild state in Ireland or adjacent countries—apart from the pest species listed in the Third Schedule—unless the birds have been fitted with a close ring at the fledgling stage to show that they were bred in captivity. This will ensure that indigenous adult wild birds, which could well include specimens of rare species, cannot be captured and sold as birds bred and reared in captivity. However I think the genuine aviculturist will have nothing to fear from the provisions of the section.
The actual process of bird ringing and the capture of wild birds for that purpose are dealth with in section 32. Bird ringing is a very important feature of ornithological research and something which should be entrusted to suitably-qualified people. My Department are already engaged in a programme—limited as yet—to provide selected personnel with the requisite skills and qualifications as bird ringers. Some voluntary organisations—for example, the Irish Wildbird Conservancy—also runs similar courses for their members. Under section 32 only persons who obtain a licence from the Minister will be authorised to capture and ring wild birds or to posses the nets used for capturing birds with a view to ringing them.
The next group of sections, that is, sections 33 to 38, inclusive, provide a number of restrictions and controls, mainly technical in content, which will assist wildlife conservation by prescribing the adoption of proper hunting practices. For the most part however the proposals merely represent an up-dating of corresponding provisions in legislation which is being superseded by the present measure. As the various proposals are largely self-explanatory I do not propose to dwell on them at any great length, but I will explain briefly their salient features.
Under section 33, the use of firearms and so forth which cause excessive and inhumane wounding and killing of wild fauna is restricted. The section will also enable the type and calibre of firearms and ammunition most suitable for shooting different protected species to be prescribed by way of regulations. The necessity for this is perhaps best illustrated in the case of deer—now to become a protected species—where the use of unsuitable weapons and ammunition and failure to effect a clean kill invariably results in a slow and painful death for the animal. It is a matter for regret that such incidents, perpetrated by unscrupulous people, have been all too common in the past.
Section 34 is intended to restrict the use of traps, snares, nets and such substances as birdlime and poisoned or stupefying baits in the process capturing and killing wild fauna. There are a number of exemptions from the scope of the section to cater for bona fide needs and confined to the use of traps or other devices which will, under regulations, be approved for the purpose. I should draw attention to the fact that, with the repeal of section 8 of the Protection of Animals Act, 1965, the use of the gin trap for taking otters, a species heretofore unprotected, will no longer be lawful.
Section 35 will impose restrictions on the use of scarecrows, decoys and call of wild birds and mammals as hunting aids. There is an exemption to meet the needs of research and certain other approved activities provided that these are carried out in accordance with a licence. Some traditional practices in relation to the hunting of wildfowl are also exempted.
The use of power boats and other mechanically-propelled vehicles in connection with game shooting—birds or animals—is a highly undesirable practice which gives rise to undue disturbance and harassment of fauna and must be curbed. This is taken care of in section 36 with a special exception being made for scientific research when carried out under licence from the Minister.
Sections 37 and 38 are controls over hunting by night. Much of the damage caused to wildlife, especially in the process of poaching, takes place at night and involves the use of lamps, dazzling devices and so on to facilitate capturing or killing wild birds or wild animals. This is another undesirable practice which calls for attention. The need becomes all the greater in view of the protection being given to deer. There may be justification for permitting a limited degree of hunting by night in specific instances but these will for the most part be tolerated only under licence from the Minister.
Section 39 replaces section 61 of the Forestry Act, 1946, under which the burning of vegetation within a mile of State forestry plantations was controlled. A similar type of control is required in the context of nature reserves and refuges for fauna and, rather than have two separate—and, perhaps, complementary—statutory controls, the relevant Forestry Act provision is being repealed and replaced by the composite section 39, which covers plantations, reserves and refuges.
Section 40 is designed to restrict the destruction of vegetation during the breeding and nesting season. Existing statutory restrictions applicable only to game birds would not be adequate for purposes of the Bill. Moreover, it is considered necessary to apply the restrictions over a somewhat longer period of the year. There is, in subsection (2), a liberal list of exemptions from the effects of the section and these should amply ensure that normal agricultural and other essential operations will not be hampered by the proposed restrictions.
This brings me to the end of Chapter IV which contains various proposals of a restrictive nature, the bulk of which are directly oriented towards the conservation and protection of wildlife. The final chapter in Part II of the Bill consists of a group of miscellaneous provisions which, while not being quite so specifically oriented, are nonetheless individually important.
In this country the ancient art of falconry is not practised on such a scale as warrants any immediate control. However, with the sport apparently gaining in popularity here, it is desirable that a comprehensive Bill such as this Bill should contain some appropriate provision for any later needs. This is achieved in section 41, which is an enabling power to permit falconry and matters associated with the sport to be regulated should the necessity arise.
Section 42 is an important provision to meet situations where damage is being done by protected wild birds and wild animals to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and so forth. I had occasion already, in the context of sections 22 and 23, to refer to situations of this kind. Whilst deer are the most likely source of trouble in this area, they are not necessarily the only potential culprits. Section 42, as well as providing that the Minister may take direct action to deal with marauding animals or birds on the property of an aggrieved person, sets out a procedure whereby an aggrieved party may deal with the situation himself on getting permission from the Minister.
However the damage being done may sometimes be such as calls for immediate remedial action and Senators will recall that this type of situation is catered for under sections 22 and 23 which I dealt with earlier. In brief, the approach to the question of damage caused by certain wild birds and wild animals is that reasonable facilities must be afforded for the elimination of the source of trouble, with the conservation element dominant only where the damage is occasioned by rare or threatened species of fauna.
Section 43 is a proposal aimed at ensuring that certain conservation benefits which will result from the Bill will not be unwittingly diminished by drainage schemes. The areas concerned will in the main comprise wetland haunts of fauna and flora which are set aside as nature reserves and refuges and also lands which become the subject of "management agreements" under section 19. The intention is that where the Commissioners of Public Works propose to undertake drainage schemes on lands which include these prime wildlife areas they will consult the Minister for Lands with a view to safeguarding these conservation sites to the utmost extent practicable, if necessary by some limitation of the scope of the scheme.
Notwithstanding the obligation on the commissioners under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945, to consult certain other State authorities when embarking on a drainage scheme, the provisions in section 43 are regarded as a desirable further precaution in so far as protection of the special areas to which I have referred are concerned. The section is all the more important when it is realised that the habitats concerned may comprise places of international significance. There may be some who feel that the powers sought under section 43 do not go far enough but I am satisfied that to seek more stringent restrictions on the national land drainage programme would be unreasonable.
Section 44 is an important provision relating to trespass on lands in pursuit of wildlife, principally game species. The section is really a further measure, augmenting section 28, to combat poaching. Particular attention is drawn to subsection (2), which lists the categories of persons who may challenge a trespasser; and also to subsections (4) and (5), which deal with prosecutions. In the latter context I should point out (a) that this is the only instance under the Bill where the bringing of a prosecution will not be subject to the ordinary constraints applicable to prosecutions under the Act and (b) that in any proceedings for an offence under section 44 the onus of proof that he was on land with lawful authority will rest with the defendant.
The commercial exploitation of wildlife resources, both in relation to game and non-game species, would if left uncontrolled quickly tend to frustrate many of the positive conservation proposals enshrined in the Bill. Such exploitation need not necessarily be confined to national boundaries; it also has international connotations in terms of imports and exports for which suitable guidelines must be laid down. This whole sector, in so far as wildlife coming within the ambit of the Bill is concerned, is dealt with in Part III, the overall title of which is the regulation and control of wildlife dealing and the transport, import and export of wildlife.
For purposes of the present exercise, sections 45 to 50 can be grouped together as they collectively provide a system of control over the business of wildlife dealing. This activity involves the purchase and sale of protected wild birds, and their eggs, and protected wild animals, including of course game species in both categories. The Game Preservation Act, 1930, contained certain statutory controls in relation to game species, but more comprehensive measures are now required to conform with the broader provisions of the Bill. However, the basic control elements—namely, a licensing system and obligation to keep records—are being retained.
Section 45 provides that only licensed wildlife dealers shall sell, keep for sale or purchase specimens, live or dead, of protected wild fauna, including the flesh of such fauna and, in the case of wild birds, their eggs. The sale of fauna lawfully killed— for example, game species during an open season—is exempted. However, past experience points to a need to control the purchase of game by hotels and other catering establishments and there are special provisions accordingly in subsections (3) and (4).
Section 46 is an enabling provision empowering the Minister to prohibit or suitably control the purchase and sale of any protected species for specified periods where this is desirable in the interests of overall conservation of the species in question. The section would also enable the Minister to control the various aspects of the business of wildlife dealing by means of comprehensive regulations.
Section 47 is the statutory basis for the licensing of wildlife dealers with a provision, in subsection (2), for a transitional period after the Bill comes into operation. The procedure for the granting and renewal of wildlife dealers' licences is set out in section 48. The intention is that the Minister will issue or renew a licence on foot of a certificate of suitability granted by the District Court. Section 49 deals with revocation of licences on conviction of licence holders of certain offences under the Bill, and section 50 empowers the Minister to publish lists of licence holders or of persons whose licences have been revoked.
Section 51 will control the transport of certain fauna by imposing an obligation on persons who despatch protected wild fauna or parts thereof and, in the case of wild birds, their eggs in various types of containers to indicate clearly on the container (a) their names and addresses and (b) the contents. There is a saver in subsection (4) to cover the transport of game species lawfully taken during an open season.
Regulations to control the import and export of fauna and flora are foreshadowed in sections 52 and 53 respectively. The import controls, which of course are not confined to species protected under the Bill, are necessary (a) to preserve the characteristics of native species, (b) to prevent the entry of pest species into this country and (c) to enable the terms of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to be complied with. Ireland has already signed this convention subject to ratification following the enactment of the Bill.
The export controls, section 53, reflect similar existing restrictions on certain game bird exports with appropriate modification and enlargement to cater for the much broader range of protected species, including flora, envisaged under the Bill.
In regard to both imports and exports, it is intended that the necessary regulations will be made only after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and there are provisions for the granting of licences to meet genuine needs.
The final section in Part III, section 54, requires little comment. It simply sets out the obligation which attaches to persons engaged in the kind of imports and exports which I have just dealt with, to comply with any relevant conditions arising under the Customs Act.
Part IV of the Bill carries the general subtitle of "Land and Waters". In addition to providing for a revised land acquisition procedure, this part is concerned with the unification and rationalisation of certain services within my Department dealing with forestry, wildlife conservation and allied matters. It also contains a number of important provisions affecting inland waters and the territorial seas.
The new acquisition system is contained in section 55. This is rather long and involved but the basic intention is to provide a more expeditious procedure for land acquisition whether the land is destined for afforestation or wildlife conservation purposes or a combination of both. Operation of the section is confined to registered land but the system will embrace the bulk of the Minister's land purchase transactions.
The long delays which arise from title clearance in the closing of sales of land purchased by my Department —apart altogether from the many disadvantages from the departmental standpoint—have over the years been a persistent outside source of criticism and complaint. It is most desirable that some improvement be brought about in this sector and the purchase order procedure envisaged under section 55 will, I feel, go a long way towards remedying the situation.
The details of the section are dealt with at considerable length in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill and I do not propose to repeat them here. However, there are a few aspects of the proposal which I should like to emphasise.
Firstly, there is no element of compulsion involved: the entire process is based on a willingness on the part of owners and occupiers of land to sell their interests to the Minister. Secondly, there will be a number of constraints before the Minister can make a purchase order. And, thirdly, there is provision for compensating bona fide late claimants with the possibility of recovering the amount of such compensation from the person who agreed to sell the land in the first instance.
I am confident that the new procedure will result in a speedier and more satisfactory all-round treatment of land acquisition cases, which will benefit both the Department and those who are willing to sell their lands for State afforestation or wildlife conservation purposes. The effects of the provision in broad outline will be that, where a purchase order is made in respect of land being purchased by the Minister for purposes of this Bill or of the Forestry Acts, it will automatically vest the land in the Minister in fee simple and all estates, trusts, encumbrances, rights and claims— with a few exceptions—affecting the land will attach to the purchase money. There are appropriate refinements in the procedure to cater for the situation where lands are held in commonage.
Section 56 will enable all land vested under the relevant provisions of this Bill, to be managed and used, as appropriate, for afforestation, wildlife conservation, game development and other kindred purposes. The existing statutory provisions, which are confined to afforestation, would clearly be too restrictive in the context of the broader mandate which the Minister will have henceforth.
In case some land in the Minister's possession is unsuitable for management or use within that expanded mandate, the Minister will have discretion as to how it should be dealt with. A practical illustration of this would be where the Minister, in the context of the Forestry Acts or the Bill, is obliged to purchase in its entirety a large property which includes some land which may not be suitable for forestry or wildlife purposes.
I come now to section 57. Senators will recall that when dealing earlier with section 30 I referred to inland waters and their importance as wildlife habitats. Outlining the proposed measures to control hunting on these areas, I also indicated that some further steps in relation to them were contemplated under section 57 of the Bill. The section is an attempt to clarify the situation in relation to certain inland waters, mainly those which are sometimes referred to as State lakes.
In the case of some inland lakes, property rights are already clearly established and no problems of tenure arise; but in other cases ownership is either believed to have vested in the State, as successor to the Crown, or else has never been clarified. The potential of such lakes in the sphere of wildlife conservation—for example, their full utilisation as nature reserves or the benefits of controlled shooting over them—is such that some machinery is desirable to determine their precise ownership, that is, whether they are privately owned or vested in the State.
A mechanism to facilitate this determination is proposed in section 57. Very briefly, the intention is that the Minister would publish in Iris Oifigiúil and local newspapers particulars of lakes and other inland waters the title to which is in doubt and would require interested persons to lodge within a specified period particulars of any claims they wish to put forward. If no claims are received or if, in relation to bona fide claims, the Minister acquires by agreement the interests of such claimants, he will then be empowered to declare by order that the fee simple of the particular lake or inland water belongs to the State. Where late claims are received and proved, there is provision for compensating aggrieved parties.
As regards the general implementation of the section, I should point out that ordinarily it is not intended that fishing rights would be included in the invitation of claims. Such rights would therefore not normally be comprehended by a declaration order. However the section is so drafted as to make it possible, exceptionally, to depart from this general approach—for example, where fish life constitutes a significant element in the establishment of a nature reserve in any lake or inland water concerned.
Section 58 extends to the territorial seas of the State the kind of restrictions on hunting which would apply to foreshore and inland waters under section 30. By their nature the territorial seas are areas of major interest where the conservation of seabirds, marine mammals, and so on, are concerned. Like foreshore and inland lakes, they comprise habitats which are liable to severe hunting pressure and excessive disturbance of fauna. By formally asserting that hunting rights over the territorial seas belong to the State and making hunting over such areas subject to permission of the Minister, appropriate control in this important sector of conservation will be feasible.
Section 59 is an enabling measure authorising the making of regulations governing the use by the public for such purposes as leisure and education of State-owned foreshore and refuges for fauna, designated under section 17. The regulations would be the subject of appropriate advance consultation with other interests and their scope would be circumscribed by the extent of the wildlife conservation values of the locations involved. Any regulations affecting the public use of nature reserves in private ownership or of lands owned by any board established under the Act would be made only at the request of and by agreement with such owner or board.
As regards properties held by the Minister, ownership entitles him to allow the public to use these properties, as appropriate and a statutory provision to this effect is not required. However there is a need to ensure that breach of any bye-laws and so on made by the Minister in this context will be an offence under the Bill and liable to an appropriate penalty. This particular point is provided for in subsection (11) of section 59.
Sections 60 and 61 are further examples of the proposed unification of services by adapting procedures under the Forestry Acts to parallel activities stemming from the Wildlife Bill. Section 60 is concerned with the creation of external rights of way. Where such rights are needed in connection with lands being used for State afforestation purposes, section 21 of the Forestry Act, 1946, lays down the procedure to be followed, a procedure which involves an application by the Minister to the Lay Commissioners of the Land Commission. The effect of section 60 will be to apply this procedure also to rights of way required in connection with the management of lands acquired for purposes of the Bill.
Similarly, section 61 is designed to adapt the relevant provisions of the Forestry Act, 1946, to the needs of the Bill in so far as the extinguishment of easements affecting acquired lands are concerned.
Part V of the Bill deals with the necessary amendment of other legislation arising from some provisions of the Bill. The Firearms Act, 1925, is a case in point. The statutory authority for the issue of firearm certificates resides in section 3 of that Act, but the introduction of the concept of a game licence under section 29 of the Bill will result in a changed procedure for issuing firearm certificates in respect of guns being used for game shooting. The gist of the amendment of section 3 of the Firearms Act, 1925, contained in section 62 is that in future production of a game licence will be a necessary prerequisite to the issue of a firearm certificate for a gun intended to be used by—
(a) a resident sportsman who wishes to hunt certain mammal species and
(b) a visitor to the State who wishes to hunt any type of game.
I have already dealt with section 29 with the case of the resident sportsman who wishes to shoot only game birds and hares.
Amendments of the Firearms Act, 1964, which are set out in section 65 reflect in the main the need to adapt certain sections of that Act which relate to existing game species to the broader concepts of protected species under the Bill.
Section 63 is another provision aimed at unifying certain powers and procedures relating to State afforestation and wildlife conservation by adapting certain sections of the Forestry Act, 1946, to the needs of the Bill. The most significant of these provisions is in subsection (1). The basic powers relating to the Minister's functions in carrying out the State afforestation programme—for example, the purchase, sale and exchange of land and so on—are contained in section 9 of the Forestry Act, 1946. The effect of subsection (1) of section 63, will be to make these powers apply equally to corresponding ministerial functions in the sphere of wildlife conservation.
I explained the general procedure relating to the creation of rights of way when commenting on section 60 a few minutes ago. Subsection (2) of section 63 is merely a modification of that procedure in cases where public user of rights of way is to be permitted. The effect of subsections (3) and (4) is to apply the Minister's existing compulsory land acquisition powers in the afforestation sector to land required for wildlife conservation purposes. However, I hasten to add that the objective here is primarily to set down a unified statutory basis for all land being acquired by the Minister. In practice compulsory powers in relation to acquisition of land are rarely exercised, the vast bulk of land intake being the result of voluntary sales by vendors. No departure from this practice is envisaged.
The Forestry Act, 1946, defined vermin as (a) deer and (b) wild animals, other than hares, likely to damage trees or plants. In the light of the contents of the Bill a revised definition is obviously necessary. This is provided for in subsection (5) of section 63, the effect of which is that in future vermin will consist of all species of wild animals and wild birds which are not given protection under the Bill.
Section 64 envisages a slight amendment of the State Property Act, 1954. In the First Schedule to that Act properties vested in the Minister for Lands under the Forestry Acts are excluded from the operation of certain sections of the Act. The intention in section 64 is simply to extend this exclusion to lands which will vest in the Minister through the operation of the Bill.
The effect of section 66 is to amend the Registration of Title Act, 1964, so as to add to the list of items to be registered as burdens on the relevant folios management agreements, under section 18 of the Bill, which are binding on successors in title.
The sale of animals as pets is already regulated under Part V of the Protection of Animals Act, 1965. Such animals are likely to be largely, but not exclusively, in the domestic category. However, the Bill—notably in section 45—also restricts the sale of certain wild fauna and it is necessary to avoid overlapping between the two statutes. The proposed modification of the 1965 Act in section 67 of the Bill will meet the situation.
I have now reached the final part of this long Bill, Part VI, which incorporates a group of diverse but essential provisions under the general heading of "Miscellaneous".
Section 68 is concerned with the inspection of land by authorised officers of the Minister for various purposes—for example, to ascertain its suitability for acquisition under section 55, to establish the needs of wildlife conservation, and so on. It will be noted that such inspections would be carried out only with the consent of, or following due notice to, the owner or occupier of the lands. Moreover, anybody aggrieved by a notice of intention to inspect his lands may have recourse to the District Court which can either prohibit entry on the lands or permit entry on such conditions as the court sees fit to impose. The Forestry Act, 1946, also includes provisions for inspection of land and in framing section 68 of the Bill it was the intention to avoid overlapping with these. However, I may say that I am not so sure that this has been totally achieved and I shall examine the matter carefully before Committee Stage to decide whether any change is necessary.
Section 69 does not call for any lengthy comment. It is a general composite provision designed to make it quite clear that a variety of practices—such as aiding and abetting the commission of offences, giving false or misleading information, failure to comply with regulations and declarations, and so on—will, in themselves, constitute offences under the Bill and attract appropriate penalties.
The position as regards prosecution of offences is provided for in section 70. The right of the Minister to prosecute offences under the Bill is set out in subsection (1). The Garda Síochána will, of course, have the same authority to prosecute under the Bill when it becomes law as they have under legislation generally. In so far as persons other than the Minister or the Garda are concerned, however, subsection (2) will enable them to bring prosecutions—apart from prosecutions relating to trespess in pursuit of game which, as I explained when dealing with section 44, are in a special category—with the consent of the Minister or a specifically-named officer of his Department not below the rank of assistant secretary.
The next section, section 71, is a technical provision designed to eliminate the waste of official time which would result if departmental officers had to be present in court in order to prove that an open season order or a licence was not in force when an alleged offence was committed. The existence or otherwise of a ministerial order declaring an open season will be a simple matter to demonstrate. As regards a licence, the onus will be on defendant to prove that he was in possession of a valid one when the alleged offence was committed.
I come now to the enforcement provisions of the Bill and in this context the overall picture can best be got by reading sections 72 and 73 together. I should say that in formulating any proposals of this kind due regard must be had to the realities of the situation in two important respects: the scope of the enforcement agency and the extent of the powers which it is to be given. As regards the former, it goes without saying that much of the benefit intended to flow from the Bill could be lost unless suitable enforcement measures are provided. At the same time any proposals for the establishment of a comprehensive wardening service, such as would be required to secure absolute enforcement of a Bill whose writ extends to the entire State and its territorial waters, would be so costly that one has little option but to settle for a less ambitious system.
And in deciding the "teeth" which can be given to whatever agency ultimately emerges, the nature of the Bill itself and present day levels of public tolerance in the sphere of State interference with private citizens are basic considerations which cannot be disregarded.
This is the difficult background against which the proposals in section 72 and 73 have been framed. However they reflect, in my view, a reasonable and realistic balance between all the relevant factors in providing a framework which can be built on and expanded according as resources can be made available and according as the needs of a particular situation may dictate.
For practical purposes, enforcement of the Bill, apart from Garda Síochána involvement, will rest with authorised persons to be appointed by the Minister. Such persons can be appointed from within the Forest and Wildlife Service but I would like to think, in relation to this particular aspect of the Bill, that suitable candidates would, if necessary, be forthcoming from the ranks of voluntary organisations directly concerned in wildlife conservation, game development and so on in order to augment full-time personnel. In any event I shall be happy to discuss this possibility further with the organisations concerned in due course.
As regards the actual powers to be vested in authorised persons under section 72, these relate to such matters as entry, search, inspection and detention arising in the context of measures for protection of fauna and flora contained in the Bill. It will be observed however that searches of persons or private dwellings will not be permitted and that searches of other premises may be made only under search warrants obtained in accordance with section 73.
Section 74 sets out the various financial penalties which will attach to offences committed under the Bill.
The normal penalties are contained in subsection (1) but it will be observed from the remaining subsections that certain offences—for example, in relation to such aspects as regulations governing wildlife dealing, nature reserves or refuges and endangered species of fauna and flora—will be subject to special penalties. In case some Senators may be inclined to regard these penalties as unduly severe, let me remind the House that payment of several hundred pounds for such items as outstanding specimen deer trophy or for the egg of a rare species of wild bird is not unknown.
Further penalties of a non-monetary kind are contained in the two following sections of the Bill. Section 75 would enable the courts to revoke a game licence and disqualify a licence holder, but there is a safeguard whereby the holder may retain a shotgun under a limited firearm certificate for vermin destruction. The various items which are liable to be forfeited following convictions for offences under the Bill are set out in section 75, but before a court orders any forfeiture owners or other interested persons will be given suitable opportunity to make their case.
The two final sections of the Bill, sections 77 and 78, are concerned with items seized and detained by the Garda or authorised persons in the course of implementing the provisions of the Bill. Section 77 will afford an aggrieved person a right of appeal to the District Court and an entitlement, where his appeal succeeds, not only to the return of seized items but also to appropriate compensation.
In some instances it may be necessary or undesirable to retain seized items from the time an offence is committed until the subsequent court proceedings take place. This necessitates a suitable statutory provision regarding their disposal and this is contained in section 78. Where articles such as documents, weapons, traps and so on are concerned, the written consent of the owner thereof will, under subsection (1), be a prerequisite to their disposal. In many cases however the thing seized will likely consist of a specimen or specimens of dead fauna—for example, game unlawfully taken—and to meet such situations the more elaborate procedure in subsections (2) to (7) is necessary.
This brings me to the end of the individual sections of the Bill and up to the Schedules, five in all. I have already referred to these as appropriate in the course of this statement and only a further brief mention of each ought be necessary at this stage.
The First Schedule lists the legislation proposed for repeal. This is, for the most part, very antiquated law which I think few of us will be sorry to see removed from the Statute Books.
The Second Schedule contains the various provisions affecting any boards which may be established under section 14 of the Bill. However, as I indicated earlier, that section is primarily an enabling measure to meet possible future needs and no immediate proposals arising from it are envisaged.
The Third Schedule relating to wild birds, contains what might be called the black-listed category, that is, well-known pest species for which conservation measures are not at present deemed necessary. In other words, the provisions of the Bill will apply to all species other than those listed in the Second Schedule. On the other hand, the Fifth Schedule, relating to wild animals, specifically sets out the species of wild animals other than birds—for example, certain land mammals, marine mammals and amphibians—which are to be given protection. Therefore the provisions of the Bill do not extend to other wild animal species. Senators will recall, however, that it will be possible to add to or take from both Schedules as and when circumstances require.
The Fourth Schedule lists species of fauna—wild birds and wild animals —which as of now are regarded as falling within the rare or threatened categories and requiring the greatest degree of protection. This list also is capable of variation should the need arise.
I have tried to explain as clearly as possible the main objectives of the Bill and the various proposals for their realisation. I am sorry that my introductory address has been rather protracted but I am afraid this was inevitable in the context of such a long and complex piece of legislation.
In my opinion the Bill now before the House provides a sound basic framework for the conservation of wildlife in Ireland for the foreseeable future. If it can be improved or embellished by our deliberations here, then by all means let this be done. Incidentally, in this connection I have given an undertaking to various interested voluntary organisations involved in game and wildlife conservation to discuss the Bill with them and to listen to their arguments as to whether and how it might be improved. These discussions are already under way in my Department and, should anything emerge to warrant amendment of the present proposals, I shall bring it before the House in the appropriate manner on Committee Stage.
I do not think that the Bill can be regarded as controversial, in any parliamentary sense of the term, and it is my earnest hope that, after it has been fully debated by the Oireachtas, the end-product will constitute an effective charter for wildlife conservation in this country. I will be glad therefore to have the views of all sides of the House and I shall give the most careful consideration to all constructive suggestions which emerge in the course of this debate.
I confidently recommend the Bill to the House.