The bill, which passed through the Dáil by 64 votes to 33, has been sharply criticised by the Green Party and rural TDs, particularly due to a rule which will permit the cutting of hedges in August.
Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader, said that the bill will do untold damage to wildlife which is already under attack.
“Every member knows that once the word goes out from here that hedgerows can now be cut in August, it will be done wholesale,” he said.
“What is advanced in terms of science and environmental protection will go out the window because people will say this is the new rule. That would be a tragic loss.”
His colleague, Catherine Martin, highlighted the decline in bees and said the bill would escalate a decline.
Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne said the original intent was an abominable tactic by the then Fine Gael minister to give free rein to cut hedgerows during August.
An amendment pushed by his colleague, Éamonn Ó Cuív, “severely emasculated the measure the Government was proposing to allow any hedgerow to be cut in August. In my view, the measure is no longer operable,” he said.
Arts and Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan defended the bill.
She said the existing situation was not acceptable.
“Because of the conflict between the Roads Act and the Wildlife Act, a landowner who is obliged to deal with a hazard under the Roads Act should not find himself or herself in breach of the Wildlife Act,” she said.
“All this provision is designed to do is to resolve this conflict.”
She said only roadside hedges, a fraction of the entirety of the hedgerow resource we are lucky to have in this country, were subject to the provisions of the bill.