Minister undermines commitment to effective hedgerow cutting regulations – Mattie McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said there will be significant anger and frustration within rural communities following confirmation that regulations permitting the implementation of certain provisions of the Heritage Act are to be weakened. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, confirmed to him in a Parliamentary Reply that although extensions of managed hedge cutting on roadsides are to be allowed on a trial basis, they will only permit cutting of the current year’s growth:


“To say that there is huge disappointment around this news is an understatement. It was understood by almost everyone involved in this issue that once the Heritage Act 2018 was signed into law, which it was in mid-July of last year, then the provisions allowing for hedge-cutting at the start of this August would be in force.


We now understand that the Minister will only permit the bare minimum of cutting which totally undermines the actual effectiveness of the “extension.”


This demonstrates yet again that Minister Madigan has absolutely zero sense of the urgency surrounding this matter for rural Ireland and indeed for local authorities.


People’s lives are being put at risk for every day in which there is a delay in allowing the cutting of overgrown and dangerous hedges or vegetation.


Some of the roads I have travelled on recently are places where the hedges are almost meeting each other in the middle of the road and where Stop signs are completely obscured.


How the Minister and her officials have utterly failed to grasp that this is an immediate public health risk is beyond me.


The Minister and the Department now seem to be sanctioning only the kind of trimming that could be easily done with a pair of garden shears.  Clearly this is not what is required or what was sought by farming organisations.


As usual it is the government giving the appearance of action when in reality nothing helpful is being done.


What is often required is permission to bring about a significant reduction in hedgerow size given the dangers that they can represent.


It is truly ridiculous that the Minister now seems to be categorically ruling that out,” concluded Deputy McGrath.



For Written Answer on : 05/03/2019

Question Number(s): 603 Question Reference(s): 10358/19

Department: Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Asked by: Mattie McGrath T.D.






To ask the Minister for Culture; Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of the introduction of regulations to provide for managed hedge cutting on roadsides and burning of vegetation; and if she will make a statement on the matter.





Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976, as amended, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August.


Following a review of Section 40, which included consideration of submissions from interested parties, proposals were announced in December 2015 to introduce legislation to allow for managed hedge cutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period on a pilot two year basis.  The relevant legislation was included in the Heritage Bill 2016, which was enacted in July last year.


Section 7(1) of the Heritage Act 2018 provides that I may make Regulations to allow the burning of vegetation during such periods in the month of March and in such parts of the country as specified in the Regulations.


I recently made a decision not to make Regulations to extend the season for the burning of vegetation into March.  This decision was taken as there would have been no basis for me to do so given the fact that the relatively dry weather during the six month period when the burning of vegetation could have been undertaken under the law  (September to February inclusive) would not have precluded landowners from burning vegetation.    Therefore, the existing provisions in the Wildlife Acts on burning remain in force.


In relation to hedgerows, Section 7(2) of the Heritage Act 2018 provides for the cutting of roadside hedges only during the month of August under Regulations.  Ireland has some 300,000 kilometres of hedgerow mainly surrounding fields and properties across the country and only roadside hedges are subject to the provisions of the Heritage Act – a fraction of the entirety of the total hedgerow resource in this country.  I fully recognise that hedgerows are a very important wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter, corridors of movement, nesting and hibernation sites for many of our native flora and fauna.  The change in timing of cutting set out in Section 7 of the Act should not interfere with any of these functions.   To that end, and to ensure that any birds’ nests that might still be active by August will not be at risk, any Regulations made under Section 7(2) will require that any cutting in August may only be of the current year’s growth and should not involve the use of heavy flails.  It is the intention that my Department will carry out studies to determine what, if any, effects there are during the pilot phase.


I would also point out to the Deputy that both the burning and hedgerow provisions will expire after a two-year pilot period, and it follows that there will be an ongoing assessment throughout the pilot.

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