Seanad Éireann - Volume 13 - 12 December, 1929

Wild Birds Protection Bill, 1929—Report.

Mr. Comyn: I propose:—

“To insert at the appropriate places in the First Schedule the following additional birds: Blackbird, finch (all kinds), heron, lark (all kinds), linnet (all kinds), martin, peregrine falcon, stonehammer, swallow, swan, swift, thrush (all kinds), tit (all kinds).”

If Senators will look at the Bill they will see that a number of birds are in the First Schedule.

Mr. Brown: Over a hundred.

Mr. Comyn: Over a hundred, but the majority of them are birds which are found in England, and not in Ireland. These birds that I propose to include are very useful birds, chiefly singing birds. As regards the peregrine falcon, I am going to give pride of place to Senator Sir Edward Bellingham, who will have something to say about the peregine falcon, so that I will not mention that bird for the present.

Mr. Johnson: Tell us something about the swan.

[384] Cathaoirleach: Do you desire to exclude the peregrine falcon from your amendment?

Mr. Comyn: At present. Amendment No. 3 proposes to delete at the appropriate place the words “peregrine falcon.”

Cathaoirleach: Do you wish to delete it from your amendment now? You have included the peregrine falcon in your amendment, and you now say that you do not wish to include it.

Mr. Comyn: I think it would be more satisfactory if I excluded it at present.

Cathaoirleach: But permission is not given you to do so.

Mr. Comyn: I am in the hands of the House. I do not think I need say very much about this amendment, but, as Senator Butler is here, perhaps I had better say a few words in relation to the thrush and the blackbird. They are very numerous in and about the city of Dublin, and they have been numerous in that area for a very long time. There is a place-name in the south of Dublin, which I am sure Senator Gogarty is very well aware of, which takes its name from the thrush—Glenasmole —the glen of the thrushes. I think that shows that thrushes have been very numerous in and about Dublin for ages. I am sorry to say that they are not so numerous in the West, because they are most useful birds. The Minister for Justice would tell you on another Bill that the green plover is very useful in destroying the snail which acts as the host of the fluke which destroys sheep. How a soft-billed bird can do that I do not know, but I am not in a position to contradict the Minister. I can say this, however, with regard to the thrush, that I have seen thrushes of all kinds take these white snails, carry them away, break them against stones, and devour the contents. In that way they are very useful in preventing fluke in the West of Ireland, and I would ask the House to include thrushes of all kinds as birds which [385] should come within the terms of the schedule for special protection. The blackbird is in the same position as the thrush. I am sure that I need not emphasise the necessity for protecting finches of all kinds; they do very little harm, they are song birds, and I do not think that anybody would be in favour of denying them this additional protection. Next comes the heron——

Mr. Brown: Perhaps it would save time if I said that I am just as anxious as Senator Comyn to get as many birds into the Schedule as can reasonably be got into it because it will give them this particular protection, that they may not be shot by the owner or the occupier of land during the close time, and that if they are shot the penalties are much heavier. Therefore, I do not object to having them put in. The more birds I can get into the First Schedule the better. I would like the Senator to address himself for a moment to the blackbird. The object is not to have any bird in the First Schedule which is really destructive to fruit or food.

Mr. Comyn: Whether the thrush is destructive or not——

Mr. Brown: The thrush is all right.

Mr. Comyn: If Senator Brown says the thrush is all right I think the blackbird is in the same position, because it is only a variety of thrush.

Mr. Brown: Oh, no.

Mr. Comyn: If the House is against it I do not hold any special brief for the blackbird.

Cathaoirleach: We will find it hard to differentiate. Will you exclude the blackbird, Senator?

Mr. Comyn: If the House wishes [386] to exclude the blackbird let it take the responsibility. A motion can be made by any one who wishes to have any bird in the amendment to the Schedule excluded. I will not take the responsibility for excluding that bird.

Mrs. Wyse Power: The swallow and the lark are included in the First Schedule.

Mr. Comyn: The swallow is not in the First Schedule.

Mrs. Wyse Power: It is in the copy I have.

Mr. Comyn: If the swallow is in the First Schedule then it can be struck out here. The schedule will have to be revised when you pass this amendment.

Dr. Gogarty: Then it does not matter.

Mr. Comyn: I think Senator Gogarty ought to make his speech all at once, and perhaps he will speak about swans. As regards the heron, it is a bird we are all in favour of, and also larks of all kinds.

Cathaoirleach: Do you want the words “larks of all kinds” put in?

Mr. Comyn: If you look at the First Schedule you will see that in relation to certain birds, the words “all kinds” are put in after the name—“wagtail (all kinds).” These words are not after “lark.” The construction I think which would be put on it is that “lark” in the schedule would mean only one kind of lark, say skylark. I want it not only for skylarks but to protect the others, if that is the wish of the House.

Mr. Brown: I do not object to the words “all kinds.”

Mr. Comyn: Linnets of all kinds— these are small singing birds.

[387] Mr. Brown: Linnets are in the Second Schedule and cannot be exported.

Mr. Comyn: The Second Schedule is simply a prohibition against export. The First Schedule gives additional protection to these birds. I ask the House to include linnets of all kinds. Then there is the martin and the stonehammer.

Mr. Brown: Is he the yellow-hammer?

Mr. Comyn: No. The stonehammer is a white bird. It is also called the stonechat. The stonechat is a different bird from the stonehammer. The stonehammer is a small white-backed bird, and is very numerous in certain parts of the country. It does no harm and I think it should be included. If that bird is included in the First Schedule I cannot recognise it.

Mr. Brown: The stonechatter is in the First Schedule. I have consulted every book on birds that I can find and there is no such bird mentioned as stonehammer.

Mr. Foran: There is the stonehammer.

Cathaoirleach: You ought to stand for the amendment altogether.

Mr. Comyn: I stand for the whole amendment. Then there is the swallow. I am very glad to say that that bird is now very numerous in the west of Ireland. It is protected —I will not say by the superstition of the people, but by the reverence of the people. It is the favourite of poets and peasants. Nobody would kill a swallow, and I hope the House will accept it as being entitled to special protection. Next comes the swift, then thrushes of all kinds, and tits of all kinds, including the tom-tit. If any one has any objection to the inclusion of these birds in the schedule the objection can be taken.

[388] Sir Bryan Mahon: I should like to support Senator Comyn in respect of all the birds he has mentioned, but especially in reference to the peregrine falcon. I had the good luck to live for some years in a country where falconry is still carried on. It is probably the oldest sport in the world, and up to the beginning of the 18th century was very much practised in Ireland. The peregrine falcon was a bird that was very plentiful in Ireland in the past, and Irish falcons were supposed to be the best in Europe, and were sought for from all over Europe. It is probably the gamest, the bravest, and the most sporting bird that flies. The falcon is scarce in Ireland now, but is to be found in the west wherever there are mountains. Probably there are a few in the Wicklow mountains and in other places. It does very little harm. It may kill an odd grouse or partridge, but it will only kill a bird on the wing. It is not like carrion birds that rob nests and take the young; it will only kill a bird on the wing for food. Anyone who has seen the sport of falconry would, I think, support this proposal.

Miss Browne: I favour the inclusion of the peregrine falcon. The principal reason why that bird should be preserved is its increasing scarcity. A scarce bird is in more danger of being shot than any other bird. The peregrine falcon should also be preserved for its beauty. If there are birds for which it has a special liking they are wood-pigeons, and what is known as the grey crow, two most mischievous birds, so that in doing away with them he is doing good. The grey crow is also called the scald crow, and he is very mischievous. I was very interested in Senator Sir Bryan Mahon's remarks about the peregrine falcon. I think the Normans introduced the sport of hawking into Ireland. Giraldus Cambrensis tells us that his brother flew the first hawk in this island. A Deputy in the other House remarked, when speaking about the wild geese, that they were historic birds. I think the peregrine falcon is a very historic bird. In former [389] times when falconry was practised in Ireland the falcons bred in the Great Saltee Island, and falcons from that island were greatly prized; they were even sent as presents to kings and emperors in various parts of the world. I hope the few falcons that are left will be preserved.

Mr. Butler: Amongst the birds that Senator Comyn proposed to include in the First Schedule are some birds that are decidedly harmful. I refer principally to the blackbird and the thrush. The blackbird in particular does a great amount of injury to orchards. I have in my mind two orchards, devoted mainly to growing cherries. I know the proprietor of one, and in the spring when the cherries are ripe he has to keep a man with a gun for several weeks to keep these birds away, particularly blackbirds and thrushes.

Sir Edward Bellingham: I wish to support Senator Butler in asking that the blackbird be excluded. If Senator Comyn will also consent to knock out the heron, I will be prepared to support him.

Mr. Brown: I would gladly put them all in, but my reason for thinking that the blackbird ought to be excluded is that there is no doubt he is a very harmful bird. Personally I think he is worth his food, but I am rather afraid that he will probably be knocked out in the other House. I would be quite willing to accept the whole list otherwise.

Amendment put and declared carried.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.


Mr. Comyn: I move Amendment 2:—

Second Schedule. To insert at the appropriate place the word “Kingfisher.”

Mr. Brown: I accept the amendment if no Senator objects.

Dr. Gogarty: I do not often find [390] myself in agreement with Senator Comyn, but his action in moving this amendment shows apparently a change of heart when he wants to put the word “King” anyhere. According to his mentality, one would think that it is the word “President fisher” that he would desire to insert at the appropriate place, but perhaps he is going back to his old allegiance and I would not like to divorce him from that.

Mr. Comyn: I think that my friend Senator Gogarty would be more appropriate amongst the fishers.

Dr. Gogarty: Of the King, yes.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment 3, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Dr. Gogarty: There is one bird omitted from the Bill, and its omission is extraordinary, for it is the only bird of which I know to which there is a statue. In the 18th century in the Phoenix Park they erected a beautiful statue to the phoenix. I think something ought to be done to prevent people from shooting it. It is a bird that only appears at rare periods when there is something in the air.

Mr. Comyn: That is an imaginary bird.

Dr. Gogarty: No. There is a statue to it, whereas there are lots of people, such as Robert Emmet and Tom Kettle, who have only the base of statues.

Mr. Comyn: One bird that has been omitted is the wren.

Mr. O'Connor: And the robin.

Mr. Brown: No one would shoot those birds.

The remaining stages of the Bill fixed for Tuesday, 17th December, 1929.