Taoiseach Bertie Ahern should stop giving out about "snails and swans" holding up roads when it was he who encouraged support for the European treaty that brought in the safeguards for them, the president of An Taisce said yesterday.
Éanna Ní Lamhna criticised the "silly nonsense" being spoken by those in power who had no environmental education and thought they were the "only species on Earth".
See the Friends of the Irish Environment Report submitted to the Minister on Cascade Wood...
See the true story of the Kildare By Pass, dismissed by Senator Martin Manseer as 'the ridiculous delay to the N7 bypass at Kildare because of a supposedly threatened species of snail.'
Dr Ní Lamhna was in Muckross House in Killarney National Park yesterday to launch the State's first third-level wildlife biology courses.
The courses, a four-year BSc in wildlife biology and two-year certificate in biological and environmental studies, are being offered by the Institute of Technology, Tralee (ITT), in partnership with Killarney National Park and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Students will spend at least one day a week on fieldwork in the 25,000 acres of mountain woods and lakes of the park.
Referring to a radio news report the previous evening that depicted the rare Kerry slug as holding up a Cork road, Dr Ní Lamhna said: "Nobody made the point that this slug is not a nuisance holding up development, but an indicator species of an ancient wood."
The slug was protected under the habitats directive of the Maastricht treaty and the Taoiseach giving out about snails and swans holding up major roads projects was at odds with his stance on that treaty, she said.
"You wouldn't think he [ Mr Ahern] encouraged people to vote for this treaty," said Dr Ní Lamhna, in reference to Mr Ahern's support for the treaty.
The An Taisce president, who is a biologist and college lecturer, also claimed Éamon De Valera's emphasis on the Irish language in education had pushed the sciences aside.
His education policy had produced people with wonderful Irish, but without any knowledge of the environment, she said, breaking into Irish as she spoke.
Biology was made a Leaving Cert subject only in 1971 and 40 years ago girls were not offered or encouraged to study science. Between 1936 and 1971 students were taught "not a single word about the environment".
That meant the people in power now, such as county managers and politicians, had learned nothing about the environment or biology at school, she said.
People did not want to hear any more of the "silly nonsense" about snails holding up roads and "what did snails ever do for us?" and so on, "as if we were the only species on Earth".
The course being offered by the ITT was "very timely" and was at the cusp of a new environmental awareness, she added.
The Irish Times 25.10.07