No Action to be taken after Teens Cause Fire Damage to Nature Reserve

By Seamus Whelehan

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The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (DCHG) say no action will be taken against a gang of teenagers who littered and burned a section of protected East Cork coastline. A large group of teenagers celebrating the end of exams earlier this month trashed Ballynamona beach near Ballycotton, the home of a number of endangered species.
The late night party goers spoiled the delicate Eco system with beer bottles and cans, including broken bottles of spirits. The rubbish was strewn across a large area of beach and dunes. Several campfires were lit causing damage to the Marram grass that helps protect against coastal erosion by holding the sand dunes in place.
The DCHG say that following an investigation carried out by the regional staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service it “does not intend to pursue the matter.” They said they “consider the burn to be insignificant in terms of the ecological integrity of the site, given the overall size of the area.”
Under legislation a person, or persons found damaging a protected area of conservation can face a €5,000 fine and/or 6 months in prison. The Green Party in East Cork say they are “disappointed” in the DCHG’s response to the damage caused to the ecologically sensitive area. Cllr Liam Quaide said the tone in the Department’s response is “minimising” and “gives the impression of a hands off attitude to the incident.”
He said “It's well known that the NPWS is under resourced but it should consider its communications more carefully. It's also not clear from their response whether or not they actually visited Ballynamona Beach to assess the fire damage.”
Ballynamona is a vital ecosystem for 11 species of red listed birds, including the Curlew of which it is estimated that there are only 120 breeding pairs left nationally. There are just 2 pairs of Ringed Plover nesting on the beach. The area that was incinerated traditionally has Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings and Stone Chats nesting there.
Two appliances from Midleton Fire Station were on site tending to the blaze which was spotted by a number of locals. A similar event took place in 2017, and it took 25 Clean Coast volunteers the equivalent of an entire day to clean the area, eventually removing up to 25 bags of rubbish.

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