Two Cork farmers have been fined a total of €4,000 for the destruction of hedgerows contrary to the provisions of the Wildlife Act.

Brian McSweeney of Monnatagart, Donoughmore, pleaded guilty to the removal of 1,000 metres of hedgerow, including a number of mature trees.

His neighbour, Aidan O’Shea of Kilmartin Lower, also of Donoughmore, pleaded guilty to the removal 170 metres of hedgerow.

The charges included the use of a track machine to carry out the destruction of the hedgerow, which is an offence under section 69 of the Wildlife Act.

The offences took place on 6 August 2020 on lands at Kilmartin Lower, Donoughmore, Co Cork.

The lack of co-operation by McSweeney was noted by Judge McNulty when he administered the €3,000 fine.

O’Shea had a fine of €1,000 imposed for his offence.

The court heard that McSweeney, upon being questioned by the conservation ranger, refused to give details of where the destroyed hedgerows had previously occurred, and suggested that the ranger determine this from satellite imagery.

However, the court also heard that O’Shea did co-operate with the investigation and indicated the areas from where 170 metres of hedgerow was removed on his lands.

The charges related to what Judge McNulty characterised in court as “the serious destruction of hedgerows which was both extensive and total.”

Judge McNulty told the two farmers that they should be aware of the law in relation to hedgerow management and that the work was done at a time when such work was prohibited.

He further stated that carrying out such work “showed no respect for nature and no respect for the law.”

The judge noted that landowners considering doing work on hedgerows or areas of scrub, including burning, should be aware of the law.

“They should also be aware of the risks to their basic farm payment incomes, as it is a condition of such payments that the provisions of the Wildlife Act in relation to hedgerows are adhered to,” he concluded.