Removed hedgerow and trees from land


Two men who appeared at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court charged under the wildlife Act were convicted and fined €250.

Johnathan McCord, Clonturk, Longford, and Joe Sheahan, Ferefad, Longford appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with destroying vegetation on land at Ferefad, Longford, on April 10 2015.

The closed season with regard to such matters is between March 1 and August 31, the Court heard.

Ms Moles a ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) told the Court in her direct evidence that on the date in question she visited the area and observed a machine on the land.

She said she rang a phone numb which was on the side of the machine and spoke to Johnathan McCord whom she added 'turned out to be the owner of the machine.'

'There was 2km of hedgerow taken out on the land at the weekend', continues the ranger.

Mr. McCord told me that he had done the work at the request of Mr. Sheehan.

'He knew about the closed season but went ahead and did it anyway', she claimed.

The Court heard that Mr. Sheehan had recently acquired the land in question and after a cow had gotten stuck in a drain he had decided to remove the hedgerow altogether.

'They also removed areas of scrub and bulldozed the trees that were there as well,' added Ms Moles, who then pointed out that when she spoke to Mr. McCord he agreed to stop the works immediately.

'He asked if it was ok to clear away the debris and I said that was fine.'

The Court then heard that Ms Moles contacted Mr. Sheehan and asked to meet him at the site.

She said he fully cooperated with her and explained that when the cow had gotten stuck in the drain she had become paralysed as a result of the trauma suffered and was also in calf at the time.

He said he had recently purchased the land and that nothing had been done with it for the last 25 years a.' Ms Moles added.

In mitigation, the defendants' solicitor Tina Dolan said that after the cow got stuck in the drain, Mr. Sheehan became determined the 'clean up' the site. '

The animals on the farm are special in that they are trained for dealing with people who are vulnerable', continued Ms Dolan who then pointed out that Mr. Sheehan worked in conjunction with Galro Ltd in respect of that.

'It is a charitable organisation and carries out a lot of good work.

The animals were eventually going to be taken to a social farm in Ballynacargy; they are not your normal cows - they are specifically trained to deal with vulnerable people'.

During his deliberations on the matter, Judge Hughes made reference to the high level of cooperation displayed by both men with regards to the matter.

He awarded cost of €635 against Mr. Sheehan - who agreed to foot that bill - and both men were fines €250 in respect of the matter.


Longford Leader, May 6, 2016



11 MAY 2016





The environmental group friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] have published on their website photographs of young birds killed in their nests by tree felling during this bird’s breeding season at a County Longford estate.


An investigation into felling at Castleforbes Estate County Longford by the Forest Service after a complaint from FIE in early April confirmed reports of the great spotted woodpecker drumming in the woods scheduled for felling but officials refused to halt the work because no nests were found. Other bird recorded in the Castleforbes Estate include the owl and the kestrel, harrier, and the cuckoo[TL1] . The badger, fox, pine martin, hedgehog, stoat and red squirrel are also present, the latter returning and flourishing only in the last 10 years.


The group has written to the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, TD, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural Affairs, and the Gaelteacta, Heather Humphries, TD to point out that the Estate is part of the Lough Forbes Special Area of Conservation.


‘This site consists of a number of different habitats, and is centred around Lough Forbes, a lake formed by a broadening of the River Shannon. As well as the lake itself, there is also a series of raised bogs, callow grasslands and an alluvial woodland which forms part of the Estate. A mature forest was recorded at this location in the 17th century. It is protected not only under EU law, but also in the County Longford Development Plan.’


The trees selected for felling, according to the Forest Service, include between 60-80 years old oak, ‘with the occasional older tree’. While the Forest Service restricted felling during the summer season in last year’s thinning licence, no such restrictions were placed on the two 2016 far more destructive felling licences.



FIE accused the Department of using ‘double standards’, highlighting the recent judgement by Judge Seamus Hughes of the Longford District Court who fined two men €250 for destroying vegetation during the closed period imposed to protect birds and other wildlife between March 1 and August 31.


'Farmers are rightly required to go to considerable lengths to ensure they do not cut hedgerows during the closed period, even to incurring additional cost for machinery equipped to deal with wet land, while the Department's own Forest Service issued two felling licenses at the historic Castleforbes Estate in County Longford without any restrictions for nature conservation.’


‘These double standards are bound to cause resentment among farmers who are being fined in the Courts for felling hedgerows while they see heritage woodlands being cut at the peak of the nesting season. The excuse for allowing the felling at this time of year is that the wet woodlands are too difficult to fell during the winter season – but farmers facing fines for loss of land available for foraging are being actively prosecuted in the Courts for cutting hedgerow during the closed period.’



In letters to Ministers, the group has urged them to examine the Ireland’s commitment to the 2020 headline target of the EU biodiversity strategy – ‘Halting the loss of biodiversity’.


FIE points out that EU rural development policy specifically requires Ireland ‘to bring about a measurable improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by forestry.’ ‘The decision by the Forest service to allow this felling during the restricted season undermines Ireland’s commitment to this policy’, the group wrote.


‘It is particularly ironic that the death of these nesting birds took place just as the nation celebrated the ‘dawn chorus’, an event that showcases the great diversity of Ireland’s birdlife’, the FIE statement concluded sadly.


Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0)87 2176316  /  353 (0)27 74771



Downloadable High Res Photos











18 APRIL 2016





The Minister for Agriculture has been urged not to end the suspension of timber felling at Castle Forbes Estate in County Longford until a full investigation has been undertaken.

The suspension was initiated by the Forest Service on April 5, 2016 after a complaint was lodged by the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment for General Felling Licences issued in January and February of this year.

In today’s letter, the group alleges that neither of the two licenses granted required that work not take place during the bird nesting season from 1 May to 30 September.

‘While a 2014 license had a bird protection condition attached, two General Felling Licenses were granted this year with no restrictions in this woodland, which is recorded as a mature forest with oak, elm, and ash as early as 1682’, said Tony Lowes of FIE. ‘Birdlife reported within the woodland includes protected species such as the kestrel, the woodpecker, and mammals such as stoats and red squirrel’s.

According to FIE ‘The site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and should have been subject to an Appropriate Assessment to ensure no damage would be done by the felling operations under the Habitats Regulations 2011 but the ‘screening’ checklist produced to meet the requirements of the law has been shown to be inadequate to protect our environment.’

‘Not only was there no bird protection of the felling licence, but the conditions restricting the licences to ‘poor quality stems’ and ‘thinning’ in fact included mature hardwoods in a protected ancient woodland. This is completely unacceptable’, Mr Lowes said.

‘It appears that the Forest Service’s highly qualified ecologist was not consulted and that the Parks and Wildlife Service failed to flag the potential damage. The legislation is unequivocal that ‘an Appropriate Assessment of a plan or project is required where the plan or project is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site as a European Site and if it cannot be excluded, on the basis of objective scientific information following screening under this Regulation, that the plan or project, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will have a significant effect on a European site’.

‘The entire system seems to have failed Castleforbes ancient trees and its rare flora and fauna’, the group says.

The letter urges the Minister to require the Forestry Service to consult an inventory of private estate forestry compiled by the Forest Service in the 1970. ‘We asked the Forest Service if they had checked these woodlands against that inventory and were told because it was a confidential document it had probably not been digitalised and so was not available to those considering the licence’.

‘We have been informed’, Mr. Lowes said, ‘that the Forest Service plans to allow the operators to recommence work shorty when the bird nesting season and the squirrel breeding season is in full swing, - let alone the potential damage that could be done to this protected woodland under a General Felling License.

The group has asked the Minister to continue the suspension of work until the full extent of the felling that has taken place can be investigated, including an examination of the records of the timber received by the sawmills, and conditions put in place to protect the woodland and the rare animals its supports.


Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771  /087 2176316

Letter to the Minister:

The owner of one of the biggest country estates in Ireland has escaped with a €100 for the illegal felling of 296 ash trees at the estate.



At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan imposed the fine on Kevin Farry of Newhall Estate outside Ennis, and also declined a State application for costs against Mr Farry.

Mr Farry pleaded guilty to the illegal felling that occurred in February of last year. The State stated that the fine that applied in the case totalled €18,793.

However, Judge Durcan opted not to impose the substantial fine having previously pointed out to the court that a heavy fine would achieve absolutely nothing and add another burden to the sinking of a very important property.

The estate is the former seat of an MP and more recently the home of a Second World War flying hero.

Forest service inspector with the Department of Agriculture, Kevin Keary, said that around 296 ash trees between 40 and 80 years old were knocked down for commercial gain for the production of hurley butts.

Mr Farry was required to carry out a bat survey for a tree felling licence for the area and this was not carried out. Judge Durcan said: “It seems to me that the main interest here is the bats, not the Newhall estate, not the house itself, not the forestry surrounding it.”

In reply, Mr Keary said: “We are not interested in the bats… I am interested in what is the summons which is 296 trees — that is the only reason why I am here.”

Imposing the €100 fine, Judge Durcan said that overshadowing the case “is the law of Europe which is the law of the land and the necessity to protect bats which of course is a legal obligation”.

Judge Durcan said: “I acknowledge that the duty exists and we employ a great cohort of civil servants to discharge that duty because that is the obligation imposed on us by virtue of our relationship with the EU.

He said: “On the other hand, the defendant, Kevin Farry, comes in here, he pleads guilty to the matter before the court.

“He very honestly and fulsomely outlines the difficulties he has in protecting, preserving, and attempting to enhance the Newhall estate. I have great sympathy for him and I have admiration for him in what he is attempting to do.”


Irish Examiner 29.04.16



30 MARCH 2016





Following on last night’s Irish National television programme ‘Prime Time Investigates’ on Donald Trump’s proposed wall at his Doonbeg sea side golf course, the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] have launched an international campaign to stop the proposed construction of a 3 km hard coastal defence of quarried limestone rocks up to-5 meters above beach level and 15 metres wide. The group has also reported the organisation for holding and covering up an unauthorised dump and damaging the protected dunes.



The import of lorries of rock limestone to construct this coastal defence without permission was the subject of an enforcement order by Parks and Wildlife Service on 21 February, 2014. The developer claimed that ‘the asset and business is in a state of emergency’ due to the ‘catastrophic nature of the storm damage’, stating that the course is now ‘incredibly dangerous’ and threatening to hold the Department liable for ‘resulting damages and or loss to property, including lost income, business, and the livelihood of our many great employees’. A meeting with Parks and Wildlife and a subsequent discussion with the Minister [Jimmy Dennihan] ‘seems to have had the desired effect’, according to records released to FIE by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht. The Trump Organisation agreed to apply for the current planning permission.



FIE Director Tony Lowes says that the proposed wall will prevent the natural dynamics of the remaining dune system from functioning. ‘From the nature conservation point of view, a rock armoured wall on a dune system is a lose lose proposition. The dunes lose because the embryonic dunes forming above the tideline are prevented from developing into mobile dunes by the construction of a wall between them and the rest of the dune system. At the same time, the wall will fossilise the high dunes so the natural nourishment of the beach by the preferential erosion of the dunes is prevented from reaching it, leading to a deepening of the beach which will be made worse by the loss of sand from cross and long shore drift created by the structure.’

The group says the 2014 legally binding Conservation Objective for Doonbeg (which are also included in the Draft Clare Development Plan), require the operators ‘to maintain the natural circulation of sediment and organic matter throughout the entire dune system, without any physical obstructions,’ concluding ‘there shall be no constructions permitted anywhere in the dune system’. If constructed, FIE says Ireland ‘would inevitable see prosecution by the European Commission, potentially costing the taxpayer – not Mr. Trump -  between €25,000 and €30,000 in fines.’


The group has also provided photographs to Clare County Council and the EPA of the illegal dump exposed by dune erosion and shown in Prime Time last night. ‘In the 10 days between Prime Time’s filming and our own site visit, it appears that the waste material has been covered up and the dune crest pulled down on top of it. This dump should have been reported to the authorities and investigated to determine what was the best approach to protect the environment from further damage. Instead, it was hastily hidden, causing more damage to the dune system.’


It has also reported littering along the beach caused by the failure of the golf course’s dune protection, including metal poles and concrete footings which it says should have been removed from the public beach. ‘The state of the dunes is shocking, littered with failed fences, their metal poles, chunks of concrete and rubbish. Mr. Trump has turned a great dune system into a slum.’



In a letter to National Parks and Wildlife Service, FIE alleges that drainage pipes highlighted by photographs require the Department’s consent as they could threaten the tiny snail, Vertigo angustior, which was at the heart of the settlement of the 2000 Judicial Review. Under a Management Plan, it has thrived and grown to a colony of more than 300m with unique annual records detailing vegetation and groundwater levels.

FIE also asks if the current widespread use of now rotting massive straw bales to try and stop the sand encroaching on the course are a source of nutrients which will impact on the vegetation and if they are in fact ‘worse for the dunes than even past poor farming practices’ as well as increasing the load on the dune crests, accelerating erosion.



The group had also published on its website the original letter 1995 from the Parks and Wildlife Service to Shannon Development, who were applying to draw down an EU £2.2m EU grant for the original golf course developers. The letter states that the NPWS would ‘strongly object’ to the development of a golf course on the intact areas of the dune system because ‘it would destroy the ecological and conservation value of the site’. ‘Only the degraded area at the eastern side of the system’, the letter concluded, ‘should be included in the proposed golf course, as the dune system was of ‘international conservation value’.

An affidavit of Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington of NUI Galway from the 2000 Judicial Review, stating that there was no justification for the reduction of the boundaries of the protected area which permitted the golf course to proceed.

‘The failure of the NPWS to maintain their position 20 years ago has led to the present impasse. If there is a lesson to be had from the history of Doonbeg, it is that the science will always get you in the end.’

CONTACT: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771 / 353 (0) 872176316


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Letter Reporting to CCC


Letter Reporting to National Parks and Wildlife Service


1995 Letter


Skeffington Affidavit


RTE Prime Time (See also ‘RTE player’)


YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED – the shocking documentary on Trumps Scottish golf course development

‘You’ve been Trumped’