The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, has condemned the spate of wildfires in recent years in Ireland and appealed to members of the public to be conscious of the dangers posed by fire on open ground.

The minister says the main source of wildfires is believed to be through deliberate starting of fires “without concern for the consequences”.

She also pointed to one of the challenges around the whole area which centres on encouraging members of the public – including landowners, farmers and recreational users of publicly accessible land – to act responsibly at all times and to be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, and of the need to protect property.

Her sentiments were expressed during Dáil proceedings last week after she was asked by deputy Danny Healy-Rae if the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will place fire-belts on its property to prevent fires spreading within national parks.

Minister Madigan pointed to the ‘significant environmental damage’ that is caused by wildfire and, more specifically, illegal burning.

This issue has become more acute in recent years, as evidenced by the recent spate of fires in various parts of the country, including earlier this year at Torc Mountain in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry.

“Wildfires are not a natural phenomenon in Ireland and can have a local impact on species that cannot escape, or that lose breeding habitat as a result,” she continued.

“Such impacts are generally fairly short term, but could be very serious for species that are already in decline, such as curlew. Some plant and moss species may be lost or greatly reduced.”

Plan of Action

The minister then pointed to the efforts that were being made by various state bodies to deal with the issue.

With regard to the national parks, officials from my department are in close liaison with both the Gardaí and the fire service.

“With regard to gorse fires in particular, there are a number of inter-agency gorse fire groups that explore issues surrounding such fires, and my department through NPWS is one of a number of agencies represented on such groups.

My department remains very committed to the prevention, early detection and minimisation of the impacts of these fires.

“We recently piloted a joint action with Coillte using drones to assist in the early identification of fires and communication of real-time information to my staff when they work with the emergency services to prevent such fires from spreading.

“Trying to identify those who deliberately set fires in open areas without concern for the consequences can be challenging.

“NPWS staff remain ever vigilant when conditions exist that might result in fires in the national parks.”