Inter-agency group set up to explore gorse fire issues

The Government has set up an new Inter-Agency Gorse Fire Group following the devastating outbreaks that occurred earlier this year.

It will explore issues like the development of risk- mitigation strategies and resource deployment to tackle fires.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will chair the group, which will include officials from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, particularly the National Parks and Wildlife Service, as well the Fire Services and gardaí.

As it has primary responsibility for the response to fire emergencies, the Department of Housing Planning, Community and Local Government will also participate. Details of the move were revealed in the Dáil by Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Minister Denis Naughten.

He was replying to a Dáil question made by Galway Independent TD Catherine Connolly, who sought a progress report on what action had, or is, being carried out by his department with regard to the extensive damage caused by the fires in parts of Connemara. The minister said that his department has no statutory function for any follow-up actions in relation to these fires.

However, he was concerned about the potential impacts on the environment as well as the communities, farms and businesses in the areas which have been affected. The statutory responsibility for fire mitigation and dealing with fire emergencies rests across a range of other government departments and agencies.

“I understand that the Department of Agriculture has sanctioned farmers who have breached the controlled burning guidelines by suspending single farm payments,” he said.

Specifically, it is an offence to burn, from March 1 to August 31 in a given year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.

He also said the National Parks and Wildlife Service is in close liaison with the gardaí and the fire service on an ongoing basis.

They remain ever-vigilant, particularly when weather conditions exist that might increase the likelihood of fires in our national parks, he said.

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