Minister slams ‘violent crime’ of national park wildfire

The recent wildfire in Killarney National Park has been described as “a violent crime” by Josepha Madigan, the Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht minister.

Replying to Dáil questions by Labour TDs Willie Penrose and Joan Burton, she said a damage assessment of the site at Torc Hill by her department revealed that about 155 acres were caught in the blaze.

The full effects of the fire will only be ascertained over time, such is the damage it has caused. We can, at present, confirm that the fire has resulted in a loss of nesting habitat for meadow pipits, skylarks and other birds

“This fire has also impacted on the small mammal communities, as well as on amphibians and lizards. It has caused significant damage to the wet heaths and blanket bogs,” she said.

Ms Madigan described assumptions that the fires were connected to her decision not to extend the burning season as both disingenuous and misleading. The burning was completely illegal and caused significant damage to the park.]

“The fire underlines the fact that ground conditions are extremely dry and that an extension to allow burning in March would not only have been unwarranted but would have also been irresponsible at this time,” she said.

Ms Madigan thanked Kerry fire service, along with the National Parks and the Wildlife Service staff in Killarney, as well as all of the volunteers who came to their assistance.

In an earlier Dail reply to Green Party TD Catherine Martin, the Minister said the main source of wild fires is thought to be the deliberate starting of fires without concern for the consequences.

Aside from such malicious activities, one of the main challenges is to encourage members of the public, including landowners, farmers and recreational users of publicly accessible land, to act responsibly at all times.

She urged the public to be conscious of the danger posed by fire – any fire – but particularly a fire on open ground which can quickly get out of control.

“We have all seen how homes and lives can be threatened and we can also see the damage to the landscape and to valuable habitats caused by uncontrolled fires,” she said.

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