My Department is responsible for the implementation of a range of national and European legislation on nature and biodiversity, principally the Wildlife Acts and the Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations, which transpose in the Irish context the EU Birds Directive and EU Habitats Directive. The legislative framework around protecting and conserving our natural heritage is further strengthened by legislation for the implementation of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species); the Licensing and Inspection of Zoos Regulations 2013; as well as more specific legislation introduced in 2018 to tackle the threat posed by invasive alien species of crayfish; and regulations introduced earlier this year to implement the EU ABS Regulation, which puts in place a more equitable system for the sharing of benefits arising from use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge.
While animal health and welfare generally comes under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in the context of my Department's wide-ranging remit, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has a function in relation to policy on wildlife crime, with respect of species listed in the appendices to CITES, particularly the provenance of specimens, and with respect to the welfare and conditions of animals in zoos in Ireland and communicates on a regular basis with stakeholders and actors in these areas, including those named.
The role of non-governmental organisations and stakeholders is important and valued. My Department maintains productive relationships with a wide range of NGOs, stakeholders and conservation groups. Furthermore, environmental NGOS are represented on the Biodiversity Forum, an independent advisory group set up to advise the Minister on the implementation of the National Biodiversity Plan which usually convenes 2 or 3 times each year.
Representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service meet with stakeholders and conservation groups on a regular basis in the course of carrying out their duties. These meetings are often conducted by personnel from the NPWS Regional Management structure. While there may have been additional routine or ad-hoc meetings / communications between NPWS and representatives of stakeholders or NGOs during the period referred to in the question, the following meetings took place during that time:
- NPWS Eastern Division met with senior personnel from one of the named organisations on 17 September 2019. The purpose of the meeting was an annual review of an MOU that exists between that organisation and NPWS.
- The Irish Red Grouse Conservation Trust met with NPWS in NPWS Kildare Regional Office on 5 September 2019.
- NPWS is represented on a multi-agency group dealing with animal welfare in Wicklow. This group last met on 24 September 2019. It includes representatives from the following bodies - Wicklow SPCA, ISPCA and Irish Horse Welfare Trust. Wicklow County Council is also represented.
- The Irish Red Grouse Conservation Trust and Irish Kennel Club members met with NPWS Regional Management to trial a survey method in Slieve Blooms Mountains Nature Reserve, 27 September 2019.
Ministerial diaries are available on the Department's website: www.chg.gov.ie/about/ministers/ministers-diary/.
In the period under review, a senior official of my Department discussed the subject matter of this question with an Official of one of the named organisations and met too with the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.
On Friday last, 15 November a senior official met the CEO of the second named organisation on a range of welfare issues.