September 25th, 2019
Fianna Fail is calling for an inquiry into South Dublin County Council’s role in the destruction of a popular wetland in the centre of Tallaght which biologists say was teeming with wildlife.
Speaking during Order of Business in the Dail yesterday afternoon, the party’s leader Micheál Martin said that the Council’s role in the covering over of the biodiversity-rich wetland with silt drained from nearby ponds “demands an inquiry”.
On Saturday, the Herpetological Society of Ireland (HSI) discovered that the wetland area it was monitoring in Sean Walsh Memorial Park was completely covered over with mud and silt and levelled off.
“South Dublin County Council had… identified the area in its own documentation and had included the protection of these wetland habitats and reserves as an objective in its Tallaght local area action plan,” Mr Martin said.
“After a climate action plan has been announced, how can a local authority or a State agency engage in such environmental vandalism, attacking and destroying an area rich in biodiversity? It defies any logical explanation. It demands an inquiry because it suggests that all levels of Government are not on board in respect of the most pressing issue of our time.”
The Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan told Mr Martin that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) that sits within her Department is looking into the matter and has already contacted the Council.
She said that she will come back to Mr Martin with a full report. Earlier this month, the Fianna Fail leader called for more funding for the NPWS and conservation groups such as BirdWatch Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust.
The Green News yesterday revealed that the NPWS is in touch with the Council. “Further comment at this point would be both prejudicial and premature,” the Department said, adding that the issue remains a matter in the first instance for the Council.
An Taisce has aso written to the Council about the “blatant destruction” of the habitat that it says “runs contrary to the recent declaration of a Biodiversity Emergency by the Dáil”.
“Further, it is particularly worrying given the findings of the 2018 WWF Living Planet report, which highlighted that freshwater habitats were the most impacted habitat type globally,” the letter seen by The Green News reads.
‘Punch in the gut’
Collie Ennis, HSI science officer and project lead in Tallaght, said that it felt like “a punch in the gut” when he discovered the state of the wetland on Saturday.
“It made me physically ill,” he told The Green News. “[We] had put a lot of time and effort voluntarily into making sure this place was protected and we thought we had it in the bag. The Council have been nothing but supportive through the whole process.”
Ennis found the “little miracle” last year while surveying the area for potential pond sites for a project to link up urban amphibian populations in south Dublin. He had spent months documenting species there.
Yesterday, the Council admitted that it was responsible for the dumping of material on the site as “part of a planned process” to remove silt and rubbish from man-made lakes in the park.
While the Council said that it would “immediately review” the practice of silt disposal, best practice “dictates that the material removed is placed as close to the origin as possible”.
The Council has agreed to issue a new statement providing further details of events following a meeting of the Tallaght Area Committee on Monday.
“[The] Council have agreed, at the demand of the Tallaght Area Committee, to issue a new statement, admitting it was wrong and outlining what they will do to rectify the situation,” committee chair Councillor Mick Duff said. The Council has yet to issue any additional statement.