Ireland isn’t Green…

Hay Meadow

Species rich Hay Meadow in the Burren National Park.

I came across this on Instagram @irelandisntgreen. It is one of those stories that just leaves you scratching your head wondering what is going on.

The person who runs this Instagram page was cycling the Waterford Greenway and noticed a consistent strip of dead vegetation on both sides of the Greenway and bigger patches around signposts and rest areas where weedkiller had obviously been used. After being confronted Waterford County Council supplied this information (taken from the Ireland Isn’t Green Instagram page):

1. The whole length of the Greenway was sprayed to a width of 300mm. The Greenway is 46 km long. Both sides were sprayed.
2. The Greenway is sprayed along the verges as little as possible but it is seen as necessary to stop vegetation going onto the Greenway and impeding users.
3. Strimming of verges is not a viable option.
4. There is an environmental policy in place for the Greenway and the importance of wild flowers and pollinators is part of that.
5. The Council are planning to install information boards to tell visitors about the flora of the Greenway.
6. It’s not known what type of weedkiller was used.

It is obvious that policies and actions don’t match and unfortunately this is only one example of many that can be found across the whole country. It is a positive to have environmental policies in place but unless those policies are followed accordingly by actions those policies are useless.

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Undisturbed roadside with Purple Loosestrife and Honeysuckle in West Clare and managed fields in the background.

In this particular case I would like to know the reasons why it is thought spraying is necessary in the first place. The Greenway is frequented by cyclists and walkers neither of which would be impacted by tall grasses and wildflowers at the road margins. Over the past few decades road margins, boundary- and field-walls have become a major refuge for those wildflowers that once had been part of the species rich hay meadow flora. Yet instead of protecting this habitat it is being strimmed and sprayed into oblivion under the ‘health and safety’ pretext. I understand that in some cases it is actually necessary to keep vegetation under control, e.g. road junctions, but in most scenarios the strimming and spraying is done under the now ill informed tradition to keep things tidy.

Ireland has declared a Climate Emergency, environmental policies are in place and most people are aware that we are at the threshold of destroying what is left of the native flora and fauna and the countryside that goes with it. What must happen now is actually changing habits and behaviour. But this not only has to happen in everybody’s household and garden, government and county councils must lead the way.

Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense)

Red Clover in my own, rather unmanaged, garden.


Images & text Copyright by Carsten Krieger