132. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will engage with the Garda Commissioner to devise a protocol for dealing with reports of illegal burning (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23965/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): At the outset I must point out that my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has policy and legislative responsibility in this area. I am advised by her that the burning of vegetation on uncultivated land is prohibited without exception from 1 March to 31 August under section 40 of the Wildlife Acts, and that Authorised Officers in relation to the prosecution of breaches of the Wildlife Acts include members of An Garda Síochána.
In these circumstances, I do not have a direct role in relation to the development of protocols along the lines referred to by the Deputy. I have, however, brought the specific issues raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Garda authorities and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
I am further advised that the Garda investigation into the recent fires is continuing and therefore the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to make any further comment on these incidents. However, I would urge anyone with any information, no matter how trivial it may seem, to pass this information on to the Gardaí or to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
I also understand that, last year, stakeholders had an opportunity to input their views on the operation of the section 40 of the Wildlife Acts as part of a consultation process initiated by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and that the formulation of future proposals is currently under consideration by a Working Group in the Minister's Department.