The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht refused access to records relating to the impact on wildlife of the Heritage Bill last year, according to the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information.
The Heritage Bill provides for the reduction of the closed period for hedge-cutting and burning of vegetation.
Last year, the office dealt with an appeal where the Department refused access to the information under the access to information on the environment regulations and overturned the decision.
The Commissioner Peter Tyndall found that while the relevant records, including the Government decision, qualified as internal communications that were subject to refusal under the regulations, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure, and also applying another article of the regulations, he found it “appropriate to require the Department to make parts of the internal communications available to the appellant”.
Under the Heritage Bill, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has discretionary powers under the Heritage Act 2018 to allow the cutting of roadside hedges during the month of August on a trial basis in 2019 and 2020.
From March to August, the Minister said hedges protect nesting and breeding birds and wildlife.
“It would be wrong and would send out all the wrong signals to extend hedge-cutting further into August this year,” she said in 2019.
Under the terms of the Wildlife Act, roadside hedge-cutting is permitted between 1 September and the end of February.