THE tourism industry, community organisations and conservationists came out strongly, at the weekend, in support of a controversial plan to reintroduce the white-tailed sea eagle to the south-west.
They have formed the Kerry White-tailed Eagle Support Group, whose chairman, Jerry O’Grady, said the plan was "‘’warmly welcomed’’ by a large cross-section of people, despite some negative publicity.
He said the reintroduction of the eagle would bring social and economic benefits to the region.
"Together with our red deer herd and other indigenous species of flora and fauna, the return of the white-tailed eagle to our skies will add enormously to our image of a beautiful and green place, capable of supporting thriving flora and fauna side by side with the local population and visitors,’’ he added.
However, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is opposing the plan, claiming that the eagles could kill lambs and lead to the designation of more land for conservation purposes.
The project is being carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and is fully backed by Environment Minister Dick Roche. But, with an election approaching, farmer pressure is being applied to drop the plan, which envisages 75 young eagles being released in Killarney National Park over a five-year period.
Some farmers have also threatened to shoot, or poison, the birds, which became extinct in Kerry a century ago.
Mr O’Grady described the project as the "‘’most exciting wildlife reintroduction programme ever undertaken in Ireland.’’
The group plans to collect thousands of signatures in support of the project.
The group rejected IFA claims that the eagles would kill lambs, saying there was no evidence of interference with sheep in Donegal, where the golden eagle has been introduced, or in Scandinavian countries.
The group claims many more lambs would die because of poor husbandry, cliff falls and fox attacks.