Senator Sharon Keogan — Need for Deer Culling in Wicklow and Donegal
I have to thank the Government this morning. The Minister, Deputy Norma Foley, announced a pilot project for counselling for our children in primary schools. It is absolutely fantastic. The children will get eight one-to-one sessions for every little worry they have. It is only a pilot project. It is running in Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Monaghan, Mayo and Tipperary. They get free one-to-one sessions with a counsellor. Obviously there is a surplus of counsellors within those counties that they are able to provide that facility here and now for the children. It is great news. Early intervention, when things are worrying children, is so important. I fully support this and we need to roll it out nationwide.
The other issue I want to raise is something the children in the Gallery might not like. It is to do with wildlife and the culling of deer. I understand the figures were up 24% in 2021, which is a step in the right direction. There is a serious issue of out-of-control deer numbers in the counties of Wicklow and Donegal. While we must of course ensure the continued health and welfare of the overall deer population, the lack of natural predators outside of humans leads to an overabundance of deer in specific locations which causes adverse impacts such as over-grazing, ecological damage and an increasing risk of road accidents. Independent Donegal County Council member, Michael McClafferty, said the issue in that part of the county is extremely serious and warns that the animals are causing smashes and are damaging property.
The council believes that at least 600 deer must be taken out of the equation in order to keep the population under control and improve safety on roads.
The Wicklow Uplands Council recommended that the focus on deer management plans in County Wicklow should be to reduce the adverse impacts associated with deer, increase the culling of female deer and promote venison as a healthy and sustainable product. I note that particularly in County Wicklow, the control and licensed culling of deer is simply not keeping the population in check. We would be worse off were not for poachers because there is much poaching going on. Obviously, we do not want to rely on people breaking the law to address the issue. Therefore, we need an increase in culling figures. Perhaps the Leader could address that with the Minister.