DESPITE objections from farmers, white-tailed sea eagles are to be introduced into Kerry this year.
Minister of State Batt O’Keeffe confirmed at the weekend that the plan by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to release 75 eagle chicks in Killarney National Park over the next five years was going ahead.
Since the controversial plan was announced earlier this year by Environment Minister Dick Roche, hundreds of farmers in Kerry and west Cork have vehemently opposed it at a series of IFA meetings, claiming the eagles would prey on lambs.
Another fear among farmers was that further land in the south-west would be designated for conservation purposes, which would mean severe restrictions on windfarms and other development.
However, Mr O’Keeffe said there was no evidence to show that the eagles posed a threat to lambs.
“In the Isle of Mull, in Scotland, less than 2% of deaths in lambs are attributed to attacks from eagles. In Norway, 3,000 breeding pairs of eagles have co-existed with 100,000 sheep for 30 years, with not a single death attributed to eagles,” he stated.
Tourism groups, conservationists, the Killarney National Park Liaison Committee and Killarney Town Council, which allocated €10,000 to the project, were among the biggest supporters of the reintroduction plan.
Killarney-based Jerry O’Grady, chairman of the White-tailed Eagle Support Group, hit out at “scare- mongering” councillors who opposed the plan, saying their claims were inaccurate.
But Kerry IFA chairman John Stack claimed the introduction of the eagle would result in further designation of land which would have negative effects for the farmers involved.
“Designations will de-value your property and make it more difficult for you to do anything on your property,” he stated.
Meanwhile, some prominent farmers in Kerry have threatened to shoot or poison the eagles when they arrive.