“We desperately need an aggressive campaign”

 

BY ADAM MOYNIHAN

 

€100k of government funding aimed at eradicating the invasive and highly destructive rhododendron plant in Killarney National Park is like “spitting into the ocean,” Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae has claimed.

 

His comments come after the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht announced the funding earlier this week.

 

Recently local volunteers and members of Men’s Shed groups from across the country came together to help clear some of the plant away.

 

The men, who had been invited by Haven Pharmacy, the Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the trustees of Muckross House, cleared significant acreage of the invasive weed. The Chamber provided all accommodation free of charge.

 

And while Mr Healy-Rae was full of praise for the volunteers’ efforts, he said more help was needed.

 

“It is quite simply not enough,” he said. “We desperately need an aggressive campaign.”

 

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this week, Mr Healy-Rae added that the issue is “way more serious” than people grasp and that the park is “dying before our eyes”.

 

“The future viability of the National Park is at stake here,” he said. “We take the park for granted. We think that it will always be there the way that it is, but it won’t. The National Park is actually dying before our eyes because of lack of maintenance.”

 

Mr Healy-Rae claims the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who said it was issuing a one-year contract for the management and implementation of a plan that would solve the issues caused by the aggressive weed, is not enough.

 

“The funding announced recently, the €100,000 contract, is like spitting into the ocean,” he said. “I have taken an awful lot of advice on the National Park from extremely experienced people who know the park inside out, and it will take planning, funding and continuous maintenance. Not a once-off contract that will last for two years. Not a campaign that will last for a number of weeks. Year-round maintenance is needed.

 

“Whether it will be done through schemes working on a continuous basis, or a new proper plan by government that will say yes this is a national treasure – because that’s what it is.

 

“We say the National Park is there. It isn’t going to disappear – but it is dying under our eyes.”

 

The Kerry politician has drawn ire over his comments on the issue in the past – but insists that it’s a very grave problem that needs to be taken seriously.

 

“When I stood up in the Dáil and said that the army should be called in to help solve this problem it did get people talking, but it has gone off the boil again now. People were inclined to say that it’s a bit of craic – but it’s not. This is awful serious.

 

“I want the National Park to be there in 50, in 150, in 350 years. I want it to be a place of glory and a place that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy. We have to demand better.”

 

 

Niall O’Donoghue (Killarney Meitheal Volunteer) and Pat Monaghan (Leitrim Men’s Shed) tackling the invasive rhododendron in Killarney National Park. Pic: Valerie O’Sullivan.

 

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