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11 people have been prosecuted for starting wildfires in recent years

The minister said that recent weather conditions resulted in circumstances that made fires more likely to spread.

ELEVEN PEOPLE HAVE been successfully prosecuted for starting wildfires in recent years.

According to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries, the 11 successful prosecutions relate to the individuals breaching section 40 of the Wildlife Acts for the burning of gorse and vegetation.

Fines 

Fines were imposed in all cases, ranging from €50 to €600. In some cases, the defendants were also ordered by the court to pay legal costs and expenses.

The department manages a property portfolio in respect of national parks and reserves of approximately 79,000 hectares.

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Answering a parliamentary question from Deputy Seán Kyne, she explained that under section 40 of the Acts, burning of vegetation on uncultivated land is prohibited without exception from 1 March to 31 August.

This is to protect nesting and breeding birds and prevent forest fires.

Working group 

Humphries said a working group has been established to consider all submissions received during a recent consultation process in relation to the operation of section 40 and are due to report back to her with a range of proposals.

She added that any changes to the closed period as provided for under section 40 would require amending legislation.

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The Irish Wildlife Trust recently criticised the minister on her response to gorse fires.

In an interview on Kerry Today with Jerry O’Sullivan, Humphreys said the increase in the number of fires was “very disturbing”. She said thousands of euro worth of damage was caused by the fires lit in March and April. They also threatened homes and damaged a section of the Killarney National Park.

The minister said that recent weather conditions resulted in circumstances that made fires more likely to spread.

Because of the remote locations of much of the designated lands and the sporadic occurrence and dynamic nature of recent fires, it is difficult to accurately quantify the damage that has been caused to these protected habitats.

Earlier this month, Kerry fire services battled more than two dozen wildfires across the county, including some that threatened Killarney National Park. A family in Wicklow recently said they have been living in fear of losing their home over the last six weeks as gorse fires raged around them.

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