European Commission in talks with authorities about Killarney wildfires

Killarney National Park Fire. Image by Valerie O'Sullivan.

Radio Kerry News has learned that the European Commission is in discussions with authorities here about the problem of illegal wildfires.

Less than two weeks ago, a blaze destroyed hundreds of acres of forest and wildlife in Killarney National Park.

Gorse fires are common in spring.  Although burning’s illegal between March 1st and August 31st to protect wildlife and habitat, some farming groups have defended the practice on the grounds that it allows for the regeneration of uplands.

Illegal wildfires have come close to threatening Killarney National Park – which is a Natura 2000 site, part of an EU network of locations designated as havens for some of Europe’s most precious and threatened species and habitats.

The European Commission has refused to comment but it’s understood that it has received complaints alleging a lack of control and enforcement with regard to widespread fires in Irish uplands, including those causing damage to Natura 2000 sites.

Solicitor Pat F O’Connor who’s a former chairman of the Killarney National Parks Liaision Committee has said in Killarney court alone, there’s never been a single prosecution for causing wildfires.

The commission has taken successful legal actions against member states for not protecting habitat and wildlife, such as the failure by the Irish government to implement an EU ban on cutting turf in raised bogs, which has since been enforced.