Rhododendrons and seagulls - Half-hearted protection is a betrayal

The local chamber of tourism and commerce yesterday organised a “mountain meithal” to try to repel the relentless invasion of rhododendrons choking Killarney’s neglected national park.

Rhododendrons and seagulls - Half-hearted protection is a betrayal

The local chamber of tourism and commerce yesterday organised a “mountain meithal” to try to repel the relentless invasion of rhododendrons choking Killarney’s neglected national park.

Yesterday’s objective was to try to restore the Blue Pool mountain walk to its former glory. The spirit behind the initiative is entirely admirable but it but provokes, yet again, the obvious and increasingly pressing question: Is this work not the legal obligation of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and why is the agency not doing it?

The concern expressed by those who tried to reopen the Blue Pool walk is echoed all around the country by conservationists and those increasingly concerned about the health of our rivers and waterways. Water quality declines relentlessly and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the agency responsible for freshwater fisheries, distances itself from the hands-on work of managing ever-more sterile river habitats.

That state agency also seems to leave an important obligation to weekend volunteers. Like the Blue Pool walk, our rivers’ and lakes’ well-being is largely dependent on volunteers’ goodwill and energy. This almost seems designed to fail.

This betrayal — it is nothing less — was epitomised recently by the statement by Minister for Heritage, Culture, and the Gaeltacht Josephan Madigan who, after the National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin Castle, where the destruction of Irish species and habitats was described in the starkest terms, suggested we should all help biodiversity by putting bird boxes and bird baths in our gardens. Bird boxes? Bird baths? Once again, Ms Madigan showed she has no empathy with her brief. Those who expect our environmental heritage to be protected by her office must look elsewhere.

It may be unfair to single her out, as she is a member of the Government pressing ahead with Food Wise 2025 which envisages a 60% increase in farm production and an 85% increase in agri exports. These targets have unavoidable, negative consequences. That this process relies on subsidies — almost €60bn a year in the EU — raises further questions, as did Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s warning about the project’s sustainability. Those questions have been ignored though Bord Bia funded a questionable green-washing campaign to support it.

This is also the Government that dodged increasing carbon taxes as we miss emissions targets. It is not necessary to be paranoid to imagine the NPWS and IFI, other agencies too, are underfunded so they might not be a threat to unsustainable ambitions and continued destruction — ambitions and destruction that were the focus of the recent worldwide protests by schoolchildren.

Ironically, the people of the Dublin town of Balbriggan face a different challenge brought about by NPWS red tape. They, and even some pets, are often confined indoors because of a plague of aggressive seagulls. The organisation that will not tackle rhododendrons in Killarney will not allow the people of Balbriggan confront a real pest. Maybe Ms Madigan might introduce grants so Balbriggan can build nest boxes and bird baths to placate the gulls? Anything is, after all, possible in our pretend world of environmental protections.

More in this section

Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up