The Legal Context
The Heritage Council was established as a statutory body under the Heritage Act, 1995 [pdf 93kb]. Under the Act, the Heritage Council is charged with proposing policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the national heritage, including wildlife habitats, flora and fauna.
Wildlife Laws & Regulations
There are a range of statutory provisions in force in Ireland to protect, conserve and manage our natural heritage, and to control and regulate human activities that may impact upon it negatively. More detailed information is provided at www.npws.ie and on the Irish Statute Book at www.irishstatutebook.ie but a summary is provided here:
- The Wildlife Act, 1976 [external website].
- The Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 (due for revision in 2014) [external website].
- European Union Birds and Habitats Regulations - These transpose the European Directives (i.e. Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive) into Irish law [external website].
- Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC as amended by 97/11/EC) [external website].
- Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (2001/42/EC) [external website].
- Flora (Protection) Order, 1999 [external website].
- Planning & Development Act, 2000 and Planning & Development (Amendment) Act 2010 [external website].
- Water Framework Directive [external website].
- Marine Strategy Framework Directive [external website].
- Environmental Liability Directive [external website].
- Consideration is also currently being given to the development of an EU Directive on Invasive Species [external website].
Ireland also has a range of designated or protected sites for the purposes of nature conservation. There are a number of different types, designated for different purposes and under different laws.
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
These sites are designated under the EU’s Habitats Directive and the European Union (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997 for habitats and species that warrant protection.
Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
These sites are designated under the EU’s Birds Directive for the protection of rare and vulnerable bird species, migratory bird species and their important habitats (note: SPAs and SACs are known collectively as Natura 2000 sites.)
Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) & proposed Natural Heritage Areas (pNHAs)
These sites are designated under the Wildlife Act, 1976 and the Wildlife Amendment Act, 2000 for areas of habitat that are deemed important or which constitute an important habitat for a plant or animal species in need of protection.
These sites are protected under Ministerial Order.
There are currently six State-owned National Parks in Ireland - the Burren in Co. Clare, Connemara National Park, Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry, Glenveagh National Park in Co. Donegal, Wicklow Mountains National Park, and Ballycroy National Park in Co. Mayo.
For more information on wildlife law, legislation and designations, and their enforcement, contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2. Phone: (01) 888-2000; Lo-Call 1800 405000; Fax: (01) 8883272. For more information, visit www.npws.ie. NPWS is responsible for the enforcement of legislation such as the Wildlife Act, including hedge-cutting restrictions; any enquiries in this regard should be directed to NPWS in the first instance.
For information on wildlife legislation that needs to be adhered to when undertaking a wildlife management project, please see the leaflet Biodiversity & the Law - Working with Wildlife [pdf 4mb].
International Conventions & Agreements
In addition to the European and national laws, Ireland has signed and ratified a number of international conventions concerning biodiversity and our natural heritage. By ratifying these agreements, Ireland commits to implementing them at the national level. Some of these agreements are more binding than others, in that compliance mechanisms may be used against Ireland if we fail to fulfil our commitments (e.g. CITES) whereas other are 'softer', i.e. there are no compliance mechanisms (such as the Convention on Biological Diversity). These agreements include:
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) [external website].
- Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) >
- Ramsar Convention on Wetlands [external website].
- Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) [external website].
- Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) [external website].
- Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic [external website].