It is sickening to read that Ireland has been referred to the European Court of Justice for its failure to safeguard 423 sensitive wildlife habitats. Apart from the hefty fines that may be imposed (as if we didn’t have enough debt with the C19 crisis and resultant economic woes), this development shames our nation.
I’d like to think that with the Greens conservation of endangered wildlife and habitats will now be prioritised, and that the understaffed and woefully under-funded National Parks and Wildlife Service will receive the support it needs to look after our priceless biodiversity.
I’ll believe it though when I see it. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the Greens in their bid to usher in change in our State’s attitude to protecting the natural environment, but I am mindful of that fact that it has been successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments that have brought us to the point where a court showdown looms, thanks to political failure to take wildlife issues seriously.
Under decades of FF/FG governance an estimated one quarter of species in Ireland (birds, mammals, insects and wild plants) has been pushed to the brink of extinction. Birds like the corncrake, skylark, and yellowhammer are rarely seen nowadays in a land where once they thrived.
The curlew has declined by an alarming 96% since the 1970s, and only one-third of Ireland’s hedgerows are now capable of catering for birds and other wildlife.
Some animals have caught the attention of FF/FG. They’ve seen to it that the State has poured millions of Euro into horse and greyhound racing, so that these creatures can run around in circles to keep gamblers happy.
Those two parties are ruling together, and we know from the Programme for Government negotiations that furry critters don’t count for much with the “big two.” An attempt by the Green Party to have a pledge to ban hare coursing was promptly rejected by its coalition partners.
Not unexpectedly. Last year senior FF and FG politicians kicked up a terrible fuss when the Heritage Minister suspended the capture of hares for coursing following confirmed outbreaks of a deadly disease that was fatal to hares and rabbits and that can be spread by the use of nets to capture hares. It seemed that the thrill to be derived from watching dogs chase small animals trumped any concern about the spreading of a disease that could wipe out our iconic Irish Hare, a sub-species of the Mountain Hare unique to Ireland.
If the government fails to address the threats to our biodiversity and to avoid potentially enormous EU fines then the Greens around the cabinet table would need to ask themselves: What are we DOING here?