The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is calling for a full investigation into the causes and consequences of the fire which has destroyed swathes of Killarney National Park.
The fires in Killarney, which are close to being fully extinguished this afternoon (Monday, April 26), along with the weekend fires in the Mourne Mountains, have encouraged the IWT to call on Ministers in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Agriculture to initiate an emergency response “to the spate of out-of-control fires which are devastating wildlife habitat, poisoning air and water and releasing greenhouse gases”.
IWT calls for full investigation
“The fire at Killarney National Park was only one of a number of fires on upland areas in recent days and are part of an annual ritual which has been going on for over a decade,” the IWT said.
The IWT feels that the law surrounding these illegal fires “must be enforced and a cultural shift is needed to discourage the burning of land for agricultural purposes”.
“Politicians and farming organisations must show leadership in this regard,” the IWT added.
“An investigation into the fire in Killarney National Park should identify the areas burnt and the associated greenhouse gases and other pollutants which were emitted.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that areas with woodland cover were less affected by the flames, which were concentrated on areas of degraded open moor and heath.
“Killarney National Park has no active management plan while problems associated with over-grazing by deer and sheep, as well as infestation by rhododendron are well documented. These issues have contributed to the fires to which the park is subjected annually.”
IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty added: “It’s nearly two years since the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency yet we are still waiting on emergency measures which would break the annual cycle of infernos that has wreaked havoc on our natural environment.
“We know what those measures are but we have so far lacked the political will and leadership from farm organisations to see these through.”
Devastating Killarney fires ‘nothing short of ecocide’
Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has described the devastating fires at Killarney National Park as “nothing short of ecocide” as she called for tougher penalties for those responsible.
Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for climate action and biodiversity, said it is “heartbreaking to witness the needless destruction of our natural environment, be it intentional or through reckless negligence”.
“It’s a sad fact that many of these fires are often started illegally and the government needs to adopt a carrot and stick approach by introducing heavier penalties for those found responsible, while incentivising land users to protect the environment.
“Illegal fires are a cyclical experience that cause untold environmental, human and economic damage all over Ireland, not to mention putting firefighters, air corps crew and other emergency workers at risk each time.
“The fires are devastating for wildlife, have an impact on water quality and cause air pollution through increased carbon emissions.
“Fundamentally, the problem comes down to the fact that there are no management plans in place for our national parks or Special Areas of Conservation [SAC] that put biodiversity protection as a central goal.
“We need more land designated for protection purposes as this will lead to better conservation of environmentally vulnerable areas.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Councillor for Tralee Cathal Foley posted on Twitter saying that he “will personally give €1,000 for information leading to the prosecution of the culprits of this fire”, describing the events as an “absolutely disgraceful vandalism of our heritage and flora and fauna”.
Rewilding Ireland has started a petition to the Irish government calling for an “absolute moratorium on all fire burning seasons in Ireland to allow mountains to start to recover effective immediately”.
“As we move to the summer months, the sad familiar sight of our hills on fire returns,” the petition reads.
“At present, there is no political will or action being shown to address the root causes of these fires and prevent the destruction.
“As we see the effects of climate change with extended dry periods, the magnitude and impact of devastation will only continue to increase.”