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Farmers' association says anyone responsible for Killarney fires should 'face full rigours of the law'

Fires engulfed Killarney National Park over the weekend.

File image of a lake in Killarney National Park.
File image of a lake in Killarney National Park.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

ANYONE RESPONSIBLE FOR lighting fires which engulfed parts of Killarney National Park should face the “full rigours of the law”, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said.

Thousands of acres of Killarney National Park were set alight on Saturday, prompting a massive fire fighting operation from emergency services in Kerry.

Kerry Chief Fire Officer Andrew Macilwraith said earlier this week that it was “very hard” to determine the cause of the fires. It may have spread from ”something as small as somebody had a small barbeque or a small fire”.

The IFA said the Killarney fire “highlights the dangers” of fire spreading during a prolonged dry patch of weather.

The association said anyone responsible “should face the full rigours of the law”.

“We appeal to everyone – farmers, recreational users and the general public – to be extremely vigilant because of the current weather conditions,” the IFA said in a statement. 

“IFA looks forward to being involved in any future discussions on land management with all stakeholders, to avoid an incident happening in the future.”

Under legislation, it is illegal for farmers to burn land in a controlled manner between 1 March and 31 August each year. 

The fires in Killarney were brought under control by Monday afternoon.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is working with An Garda Síochána to investigate the cause of the fires and fully assess the damage.  

Early estimations indicate that 2,500-3,000 hectares of the park have been damaged, according to the Department of Heritage, making up to 50% of the park’s terrestrial area  – the total area of the park less the area of the lakes.

After visiting the site this week, Housing and Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan announced the accelerated recruitment of an additional 50 conservation rangers “providing additional resources to assist in responding to such fires and wildlife crime more generally and indeed to stop it from happening in the first instance”. 

“While the exact cause of these events is still to be determined, wildfires do not occur naturally in Ireland. The main cause of such conflagrations is thought to be the deliberate starting of fires without concern for the emergency services, the local wildlife, habitat, communities or even private property close by,” said O’Brien. 

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“And they are set knowing them to be illegal. The devastation this has caused cannot be overstated.”

Noonan said he was “thoroughly devastated” by what he witnessed during the visit to the park, saying “to deliberately destroy precious upland habitats in this way is absolutely criminal”. 

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