Hedgerows bill introduced to the Dáil

Hedgerows bill introduced to the Dáil

Pictured: The Climate Bar Association's launch event for the Protection of Hedgerows Bill last year.

A private member’s bill on the protection of hedgerows, drawn up with the help of the Climate Bar Association, has been introduced to the Dáil.

The Protection of Hedgerows Bill 2024 was drafted by the Hedgerows Legislation Project, a working group of Comhshaol, the Climate Bar Association, and introduces the concept of ‘significant hedgerows’ and a requirement for permission to be sought by landowners for their removal.

While some protection is afforded to hedgerows in current legislation, the Hedgerows Legislation Project determined that, because it is limited and much of it indirect, the hedgerow network continues to be eroded.

It is estimated that there are 689,000km of native Irish hedgerows in Ireland, but they are being removed at an unsustainable rate.

Leesha O’Driscoll SC, chair of the Hedgerows Legislation Project, said last year: “If enacted, the bill will establish the principle that significant hedgerows are worth protecting and ought to therefore only be removed in specified circumstances where there is no viable alternative.”

The enforcement provisions and penalties included in the bill are broadly in line with those for offences under the Wildlife Act and Forestry Acts.

Launched late last year at an event forming part of The Bar of Ireland’s Natural Justice Campaign, the bill was finally introduced to the Dáil by Green Party TDs yesterday.

Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Green TD for Waterford, said: “Our hedgerows are a vital repository of natural heritage that criss-cross our countryside. They act as wildlife corridors for our mammalian species, larders and nesting-sites for our birdlife and home to countless insect species that sustain the wider food-web.

“They slow the flow of water across the landscape, helping to prevent and protect against flooding. We’re learning that they play an important role in sequestering carbon, helping in our fight against climate change.

“And they gladden the heart too, from the first flush of whitethorn in spring to the rich bounty of blackberry, rosehip and sloe in the autumn.”

He added: “This bill will prohibit the removal of significant hedgerows except with permission or in limited circumstances.

“The value of a significant hedgerow will be contained within its functions — the protection, maintenance and improvement of biodiversity, ecosystem services, the integrity of archaeological, historical, heritage or cultural sites or features, agricultural systems.

“I’d like to acknowledge the extraordinary work on this bill carried out by the Climate Bar Association and Hedgerows Ireland (Tipperary) and co-sponsors of the bill, my Green Party colleagues, Steven Matthews and Brian Leddin.”

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