IFA criticises decision not to allow March burning

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has criticised the decision by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht not to extend the open period for gorse burning.

Yesterday (Thursday, February 28) Minister Josepha Madigan announced that the period of time in which the burning of vegetation is permitted would not be extended past the ordinary deadline, which was also yesterday.

According to Flor McCarthy, the IFA’s national hill farming chairman, Minister Madigan did not take full consideration how farmers manage their land.

The minister has failed to take account of how farmers manage their hill land responsibly and where land is burned. It is done in a managed way.

McCarthy argued that, contrary to the minister’s statement on gorse fires, such incidents could be avoided if farmers could also burn vegetation in March.

“Issues such as recent wildfires can be avoided if the window for burning included the month of March, which was enacted into law through the passing of the Heritage Bill last year,” said McCarthy.

In announcing her decision yesterday, Minister Madigan argued that, given the recent spate of gorse fires in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, allowing burning to continue into March would “not only be unwarranted but would indeed be irresponsible at this time”.

“The weather conditions for burning are not the same throughout the country and putting a blanket ban to burning in March this year is a retrograde step,” claimed McCarthy.

He concluded: “It indicates a lack of understanding of the practical issues farmers face in managing their hill farms.”

‘Fail-safe mechanism’

In reaching her decision yesterday, the minister argued that the regulation that may allow burning outside the ordinary open period was merely a “fail-safe mechanism” to allow farmers to burn on land where the weather conditions had not been suitable to do so.

She said that the relative dryness and high temperatures over the open period (September to February), and especially over the last two months, would not have prevented landowners from burning.