Government commitment towards biodiversity is mere lip service with most of Ireland's conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) “woefully and shamefully underfunded”, relying almost exclusively on donations.
That's according to BirdWatch Ireland, which said the lack of funding for like-minded groups was all the more perplexing, considering the stark ecological outlook presented in a major report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Birdwatch Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust were namechecked by Social Democrat climate and biodiversity spokesperson, Jennifer Whitmore, during a Dáil debate on greyhound funding.
She said the EPA report on “really lays bare the state of our environment”.
“Despite this, front-line environmental organisations are still inadequately funded. If one takes BirdWatch Ireland as an example, it received a paltry €16,000 from the Government in comparison with the €19.2m that will be given to the greyhound industry next year.
“The Irish Wildlife Trust received €15,000 in funding. It is now time to put our money where our mouth is and start funding these services that will actually do something for our country and its communities.”
The EPA report warned that the current assessment of Ireland’s biodiversity is “very poor”.
“Deteriorating trends dominate, especially for protected habitats, with 85% of EU protected habitats having an unfavourable status. The picture for EU protected species is mixed, but 15% are in decline, with freshwater species most at risk,” the report said.
None of Ireland’s grassland, heathland, bog, mire or fen habitats were found to be in favourable status.
Declining trends are particularly notable in marine, peatland, grassland and woodland habitats, the report found.
BirdWatch Ireland spokesman Niall Hatch said organisations starved of funding had been a “serious issue” for some time.
“Ireland's conservation NGOs are woefully, shamefully underfunded, and depend almost entirely on the generosity of their members and donors.
"In May of last year, the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, but not enough is being done actually to tackle it.
“We, and our fellow conservation organisations, absolutely deserve a massive increase in state funding for our vital work, which is to the benefit of our entire country and everyone who lives and works in it.”
He said that Covid-19 has shown that “when our society faces a very serious threat, large sums of money can, quite rightly, suddenly be made available to lessen its impacts”.
“The threats posed by biodiversity loss and climate change are even more serious, I would argue, and will have a much longer-lasting impact on our society, our well-being and our economy, yet proper urgent action is not being taken,” he said.