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Hedge-cutting ban not realistic in rural Ireland, Inishowen councillors warn

Two Inishowen county councillors have called for a review of the wildlife acts that block farmers and landowners from cutting their hedges for six months of each year.

Cllr Martin Farren says the ban is a danger to road safety, while overgrown hedges block views of scenic areas.

The Wildlife Acts 1976 prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August each year.

Cllr Farren told the council that overgrown foliage is impacting main roads and entrances to our towns and villages in terms of looking smart during the summer months for tourists. They are also impacting visibility for motorists at junctions and dangerous bends.

“It’s upsetting people to threaten that if you cut some of your hedges it’s up to a €5,000 fine, it’s outrageous,” Cllr Farren told Monday’s meeting.

I’ve been contacted by numerous community groups who have collected money from families to have their hedges cut. But there is nothing they can do.”

Cllr Martin McDermott added that he believes the policy should start putting people’s safety first.

“It’s got to the stage now where it doesn’t matter about a human being driving down the road. It’s far more important that a fly or a wasp or a butterfly is looked after before me and you. That is where we are heading,” he said.

Cllr Farren added the lifting of the restrictions in September is futile when tourists are unable to see past ‘sky high’ hedges while touring the country in the summertime.

“We can have the place looking a million dollars by the end of September or the middle of October and all the visitors are gone home,” he said.

“I understand about the birds and biodiversity, and I am not talking about going into fields and cutting hedges and taking chunks out of them, I’m talking about common sense.

“It’s not acceptable the way things are at the moment, it would be important if Donegal County Council could do anything to encourage OPW and National Parks and Wildlife Service to review this policy as soon as possible, because it’s just not working. I’m not for one moment saying it’s the fault of Donegal County Council, I think these people are sitting in offices in big cities and don’t realise what it’s like in rural Ireland.”

Cllr McDermott added: “I think we are being driven by government bodies, OPW, NPWS, and I feel like I’m tripping over bureaucracy with everything I go to do, all these bodies that don’t give a hoot about rural Ireland

“Whether it’s hedge cutting, cleaning a river, fixing our beaches, coastal erosion, it’s the same mountain that you hit all the time.

As a council, we need to start standing up to these people.”

Director of Service for Roads and Transportation Bryan Cannon said that the council will liaise with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in advance of the October meeting of the Roads and Transportation Strategic
Policy Committee.