A council leader has called for ‘open season’ on hen harriers, according to an article in the Limerick Leader on Saturday.
In an astonishingly ignorant and irresponsible statement, Councillor John Sheahan, Chair of Limerick County Council, has said that if restrictions in Special Protection Areas designated for Hen Harriers are not lifted, then “open season on the hen harrier should be declared”.
Here is a cutting from the newspaper (many thanks to the contributor who sent this in).
The text is probably difficult to read so here’s a transcript of part of it:
The new cathaoirleach [chair] of Limerick County Council, Cllr John Sheahan, has called for “open season” on the Hen Harrier unless there are changes to special protection areas (SPA).
Cllr Sheahan and Michael Sweeney, managing director of Select Forest Ltd, are due to meet with the Minister and Junior Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney and Tom Hayes ahead of the Budget.
Following the conclusion of the CAP deal, Cllr Sheahan called for a review of Natura 2000 sites, their designation and compensation for landowners adversely affected.
“Farming in the marginal lands of County Limerick is being decimated by the kosh of SPA. No proper plan is in place to assist farmers badly affected, total control is now with the National Parks and Wildlife Service – a cloak which our ministers and officials are happy to hide behind”, said Cllr Sheahan.
Large swathes of land in West Limerick and in some cases entire farms are designated to protect a predatory bird known as the Hen Harrier, he said.
“To some of us this name was an addition to our vocabulary, in days gone by it was a hawk. This protected bird has the power to stop a landowner reclaiming land, planting forestry, or constructing a windfarm.
“Following the bad weather of the last few years farmers are facing choices of how best they can manage their lands, and I stress their lands, to maximise its use and try and remain viable as part of the farming community. This is next to nigh possible with current restrictions.
“I believe now is the time to reassess all this. I believe the current CAP deal has scope within it to do so, there is no reason in my mind why this bird cannot coexist with some forestry and windfarms”, said Cllr Sheahan.
Since time began the world and all its components have evolved said the cathaoirleach.
“Charles Darwin proved this, the Hen Harrier will also evolve with changes we make. Landowners should be given the discretion they require to introduce a proper mix of activity and those who are adversely affected adequately compensated.
“Budget 2014 is coming earlier this year to suit the new fiscal treaty for Europe. I have written to the relevant ministers seeking a meeting to address this on behalf of the affected landowners of County Limerick”, said Cllr Sheahan.
“Budget 2014 should be the deadline for this and if nothing happens by then ‘open season’ should be declared on the Hen Harrier”, concluded Cllr Sheahan.
The rest of the article refers to comments made by Michael Sweeney of Select Forest Ltd who discusses the earning capacity of the land.
The hen harrier is a species of high conservation concern in Ireland (just as it is in the UK), and is protected under regional, national and international legislation. For an excellent overview on the conservation status of hen harriers in Ireland, both past and present, this report is well worth reading.
If you think Cllr Sheahan’s threat of a declared ‘open season’ on this species is, frankly, nothing short of outrageous, then please email the Irish Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, and let him know what you think: email@example.com
If you want to tell Councillor John Sheahan what you think, here are his contact details.
We’re trying to work out who to contact to make a formal complaint and call for Sheahan’s resignation. If anyone has any insight then please contact us. We’ll post details here when we know more.
UPDATE 9pm: Incredibly, Counciller Sheahan represents Ireland at the EU on Environment!! http://www.iro.ie/delegation.html#delegation Many thanks to @BBurke88 for the info.
We STILL haven’t found out how to make a formal complaint about Cllr Shehan’s remarks. We’ve tweeted Limerick Council Council to ask how we can make a formal complaint but had no response. We had hoped that one of the Irish conservation orgs would take a lead on this but haven’t heard anything, yet.
UPDATE 24th July: How to complain about Cllr Sheahan – see here
UPDATE 24th July: A petition has been started calling for the resignation of Cllr Sheahan: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/358/804/673/
UPDATE 25th July: Cllr Sheahan responds to the criticism – see here.
UPDATE 28th July: Cllr Sheahan remains unrepentant in an article published by the Sunday Times – see here.
UPDATE 4th August: Cllr Sheahan in radio debate about his comments – see here.