Time to tackle this Neanderthal behaviour

As wild fires raged near Killarney, Anne Lucey was one of the residents living in fear

Time to tackle this Neanderthal behaviour

Setting fires to gorse is Neanderthal behaviour and it’s time for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to take action to stop this yearly primitive ritual.

Year after year, my family is confined to our house in the foothills of Mangerton mountain. It has been an annual torture.

More than 30 years ago, we were the first of what are now five families to create a family home within the boundaries of the park.

It is a buffer zone where I live, right alongside the park and it is time to remove the sheep altogether from this area.

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In any case, so-called mountain sheep no longer exist — a new breed has been introduced, rarely on the mountain and reared by being hand-fed ‘nuts’.

De-stockage some years ago had brought enormous benefits — camomile, orchid, butterwort, and other plants returned.

Until about 50 years ago, the Kerry cow inhabited the buffer zone and was a lot more beneficial to the landscape than the sheep.

However, not for the first time, this Easter we were locked into our homes because of someone’s irres-ponsible and illegal actions.

I don’t envy the jobs of the park rangers and I know they are under-staffed but I do believe they must have a fair idea who is responsible for setting some of the fires. On one occasion, some years ago, I spotted a man walking down our road at Gortagullane Upper with a cannister of petrol in his hand.

I alerted a park ranger and urged him to stop the man. Yet later, the gorse was lit.

I believe the wildlife service is not doing its job properly. As a result, the families living here suffer enormously. Where we live, in the foothills of the mountains, is a magical place: We have pine martens and foxes coming up to our back door.

We had bought an old property, did it up, brought electricity and telephone lines to the area, and raised our family here. But over the years there has been terrible destruction of the environment, between trees being cut down and parkland being burned.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service needs to re-examine its priorities.

The whole focus at the moment is on the restoration of Muckross House and looking after the wild deer. The wildlife service doesn’t seem to have a woodland management plan or any meaningful desire to tackle the threat of fires.

A lot of the land that is being burned is being done in the interest of animal grazing.

I think the burning is a primitive urge and, in some cases, it is not for animal grazing but deliberate in the sense of some of them laughing in the face of the authorities.

I said on Radio Kerry this week that it was Neanderthal behaviour. Some people claim they are exercising a right to burn the land. It’s commonage and, as a family, we have our rights to the land. But we have never being approached by anyone about the need to burn.

Tourists are appalled, year after year, that such irresponsible behaviour continues to exist in Ireland and nowhere else in any other modernised society. They just can’t understand the urge to damage land.

I believe, at this stage, that some hill farmers cannot contain themselves. The wildlife service should finally decide to de-stock the mountain and remove the sheep.

My home is threatened year after year but, this Easter, the problem has received more public attention than normal.

In the past 15 years or so, we have witnessed an actual spread of gorse into parkland. Nature is reacting to the burning by fertilising the gorse which grows stronger and spreads more.

The burning serves no purpose. For Killarney itself, the tourism industry is worth a lot more to the town than a few scraggly sheep.

In 1984, there was an arson outbreak and the gorse burnt for months. The park never recovered from that destructive action.

Finally, I believe the park rangers need to assert their authority and it’s about time the State started to prosecute offenders who cause such destruction.

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