Just six new biodiversity officer posts to be created despite warning that nature is in dire decline and last chance to save it is slipping away



Just six new biodiversity officer posts will be created this year despite warnings that Ireland’s natural landscapes, animals and plants are in a dire state of decline.

he Irish Independent revealed this week that only five biodiversity officers were employed by city and county councils to work on protecting nature despite a Government promise that at least one appointment would be made to all 31 local authorities.

Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan responded by announcing the creation of six with personnel to be recruited by the end of this year, and a national roll-out to follow.

He made the announcement at the start of a major two-day National Biodiversity Conference at which ministers and experts from Ireland and abroad stressed the need for swift and strong action to protect what is left of nature in Ireland and worldwide.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, who obtained the details of the biodiversity officer posts, said the minister’s reaction did not go far enough.

“We need to see a far more substantial response,” she said.

“Fingal County Council, one of the five local authorities that have appointed a biodiversity officer, have stated in their biodiversity action plan that they need six for their own council alone.

“Staffing for local authorities purely comes down to political will. It’s clearly not there.”

The biodiversity conference comes three years after the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and as a Citizens Assembly on biodiversity loss is convening to examine the issues.

Speakers on the opening day of the conference made clear that the last chance to safeguard what remains of Ireland’s nature would slip away without urgent changes to how the country’s lands and seas are farmed, fished, planted, built on and interfered with.

“Nature in Ireland and globally has never been under so much pressure,” said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who has overall responsibility for heritage, national parks and wildlife.

“We are the first generation to realise the stark truth and we’re the last generation in a position to do anything about it,” he said.

“That’s a really sobering emergency by any definition.”

The conference will help feed into development of a new national biodiversity action plan.

“I want to see an ambitious plan that reflects the scale and urgency of Ireland’s biodiversity emergency,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We know what we’ve got to do. It’s time to get on and do it.”

Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan said hearts and minds needed to change to ensure biodiversity was protected.

“Political leadership and political courage are needed as a key part of the jigsaw of restoration of nature and a whole shift in our relationship with the natural world around us,” he said.

Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett said farmers had a critical role to play in changing biodiversity’s fortunes but she all farmers and all farmers needed to be involved.

“A whole-farm approach should not compartmentalise biodiversity to a strip or a corner of a field,” she said.

“A business as usual approach will not cut it, nor will tinkering around edges reverse the decline to the extent needed.”

Activist group, Extinction Rebellion, staged a colourful protest outside the conference’s Dublin Castle venue to call for passing of a Biodiversity Act, saying only strong legislation would ensure action plans were implemented.


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