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Connacht Tribune

Farmer admitted lighting gorse fire which threatened house

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Heath and scrub vegetation destroyed by fire at Gowla, Cashel.

A part-time farmer was banned from driving for two years after he was caught lighting gorse fires in Connemara which threatened a house.

Gerard Roche of 24 Bayview Rise, Ballybane, Galway pleaded guilty to destroying ‘by burning vegetation growing on land not then cultivated’ at Gowla, Cashel on June 5, 2020.

Galway County Council Community Warden Martin Mannion told Clifden District Court he attended the scene of the fire at 9.45am where he met the defendant who admitted to lighting the fires at 8am but which had spread out of control.

The land belonged to his wife Bridie Roche but he was taking full responsibility for the blaze.

Drone footage of heath and scrub vegetation destroyed by the fire.

A nearby resident described the gorse fire as terrible and feared it would burn down her home, he recalled. It took three fire engines hours and multiple attempts to extinguish the fire as it kept smouldering throughout the day.

“It’s a very big property. It was very close – ten feet – away from this house. That lady was very frightened,” he recalled.

He explained that gorse fires were a really big problem in South Connemara. The land was particularly dry as there had been a red fire warning in place days before following a prolonged heatwave.

“Eleven fire engines had to come to Carraroe last year – 40 firefighters had to come from as far away as Athenry and Castlebar.”

Defence solicitor Sean Acton asked him if the extent of the damage was 1.5 acres across the 20-acre farm, which lies beside a mountain with commonage grazing.

“It’s all covered in gorse heather. Everything was destroyed.”

Conservation ranger Aonghus O Dónaill said Roche did not understand the gravity of what he had done when he was questioned. Fires are banned to protect wildlife during the nesting season between March 1 and August 31.

“He said, ‘all I did was light a small fire’.  He stated that he wanted to do some more burning after being told there was a ban in place as it was the nesting season. I explained about the dates and the reason you cannot burn because it’s a catastrophe for every living thing.”

Mr O Dónaill said this was on peatland that released carbon when burned which was bad for emissions. It took between ten and 15 years for the land to recover.

“It’s very difficult to catch people in the act. The damage to wildlife and the habitat is irreparable. It’s a huge problem because there’s no real deterrent.

“This was a few metres from a house and was beside a special area of conservation. If it had got into that it would have been catastrophic.”

He explained that gorse was burnt by land owners to clear lands as farmers were afraid they would lose their farm payments. It also promoted new growth which was more nutritious for cows and sheep.

There were just three rangers covering all of Connemara.

“It’s the lazy option to put down a match and walk away. There was an orange weather warning when this happened. He showed very little remorse. I don’t think he was cognisant of the damage done and the damage it could have done. Anything that could not run or fly away would have been incinerated.”

The court heard that it cost €1,400 to fight the fire and Roche had paid €670 to Galway County Council so far.

Defence solicitor Sean Acton said this was not a case that his client lit a match and “vamoosed back to Galway”.

He remained on site and owned up to the fire. A former factory worker and taxi driver, the 66-year-old father of two was separated and living in a chalet.

He used to keep cattle on the land until some were stolen. He now rented land in Headford where he kept cattle and just had donkeys on the land in Gowla.

Judge Alan Mitchell was he was surprised that the maximum penalty for conviction was €5,000 with no prison term attached.

“It doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent because it’s happening so regularly. That’s what’s of concern. A serious view has to be taken. A ‘laissez faire’ attitude is taken by people in places like Connemara.”

He decided to impose a two-year driving ban – a little used penalty in these cases – as a car was used in the commission of the offence.

He also imposed a fine of €750 and ordered the defendant to pay €605 in the State’s legal costs.

“People should be aware that if they decide to go out driving to do this, they can also face a disqualification.”

Mr Acton indicated that he would appeal the decision.

Afterwards, the National Parks and Wildlife Service welcomed the decision of the court and Judge Mitchell’s comments on the seriousness of the issue of burning vegetation during bird nesting season.

“This illegal practice is a problem across the country and can be difficult to investigate by its nature,” said a spokesperson.

“Unregulated and uncontrolled vegetation fires are not only catastrophic for nesting birds but for biodiversity in general with large areas of sensitive peatland habitats in particular being destroyed annually as well as potential significant economic damage to commercial forestry.

“Some habitats can be destroyed or altered permanently or take decades to recover.

“Deliberate and unauthorised burning can be regarded as a traditional practice in some areas to manage scrub and promote better grazing opportunities.

“The NPWS considers that vegetation fires are a major threat to Ireland’s biodiversity and is committed to tackling the issue with the resources available, including increased dedicated patrols during high risk periods,” they concluded.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest

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Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway minors continue to lay waste to all opponents

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Galway's Aaron Niland is chased by Cillian O'Callaghan of Cork during Saturday's All-Ireland Minor Hurling semi-final at Semple Stadium. Photo: Stephen Marken/Sportsfile.

Galway 3-18

Cork 1-10

NEW setting; new opposition; new challenge. It made no difference to the Galway minor hurlers as they chalked up a remarkable sixth consecutive double digits championship victory at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

The final scoreline in Thurles may have been a little harsh on Cork, but there was no doubting Galway’s overall superiority in setting up only a second-ever All-Ireland showdown against Clare at the same venue on Sunday week.

Having claimed an historic Leinster title the previous weekend, Galway took a while to get going against the Rebels and also endured their first period in a match in which they were heavily outscored, but still the boys in maroon roll on.

Beating a decent Cork outfit by 14 points sums up how formidable Galway are. No team has managed to lay a glove on them so far, and though Clare might ask them questions other challengers haven’t, they are going to have to find significant improvement on their semi-final win over 14-man Kilkenny to pull off a final upset.

Galway just aren’t winning their matches; they are overpowering the teams which have stood in their way. Their level of consistency is admirable for young players starting off on the inter-county journey, while the team’s temperament appears to be bombproof, no matter what is thrown at them.

Having romped through Leinster, Galway should have been a bit rattled by being only level (0-4 each) after 20 minutes and being a little fortunate not to have been behind; or when Cork stormed out of the blocks at the start of the second half by hitting 1-4 to just a solitary point in reply, but there was never any trace of panic in their ranks.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Gardaí and IFA issue a joint appeal on summer road safety

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Galway IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chair Teresa Roche

GARDAÍ and the IFA have issued a joint appeal to all road users to take extra care as the silage season gets under way across the country.

Silage harvesting started in many parts of Galway last week – and over the coming month, the sight of tractors and trailers on rural roads will be getting far more frequent.

Inspector Conor Madden, who is in charge of Galway Roads Policing, told the Farming Tribune that a bit of extra care and common-sense from all road users would go a long way towards preventing serious collisions on roads this summer.

“One thing I would ask farmers and contractors to consider is to try and get more experienced drivers working for them.

“Tractors have got faster and bigger – and they are also towing heavy loads of silage – so care and experience are a great help in terms of accident prevention,” Inspector Madden told the Farming Tribune.

He said that tractor drivers should always be aware of traffic building up behind them and to pull in and let these vehicles pass, where it was safe to do so.

“By the same token, other road users should always exercise extra care; drive that bit slower; and ‘pull in’ that bit more, when meeting tractors and heavy machinery.

“We all want to see everyone enjoying a safe summer on our roads – that extra bit of care, and consideration for other roads users can make a huge difference,” said Conor Madden.

He also advised motorists and tractor drivers to be acutely aware of pedestrians and cyclists on the roads during the summer season when more people would be out walking and cycling on the roads.

The IFA has also joined in on the road safety appeal with Galway IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chair Teresa Roche asking all road users to exercise that extra bit of care and caution.

“We are renewing our annual appeal for motorists to be on the look out for tractors, trailers and other agricultural machinery exiting from fields and farmyards,” she said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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