The long term wisdom of the outgoing county council was in scant evidence once again when it decided to object to a plan to protect a number of wildlife areas within the county at its final meeting last week (May 20 ) before the election.
Before the council was a proposal from the Department of Environment to allocate a Special Protection Area (SPA ) to three small lakes in the north of the county in line with an EU Directive to help protect the habitats of endangered wetland birds.
However, when this proposal was put before the outgoing members earlier this week, it rose the dander of a number of the more vocal representatives.
Cllr Paddy Hill wanted to know if all shooting and fishing would be prohibited in these areas because he felt this was one of the only tourist attractions left in the Castletown-Finea area.
“This is coming down from the Department with no consultation at all,” he said indignantly.
“I'm totally against it. It's overregulation again.”
Cllr Michael Newman from Kilbeggan believed there was “no need” for SPAs.
“Nature got on with it for thousands of years without interference,” he said.
“I'm very sceptical of SPAs in relation to the management of the environment.”
He went on sensationally to say wildlife rangers were “introducing alien species” to Irish habitats.
“The pine marten is the most vicious thug ever,” he suggested.
“It'll kill turkeys and chickens. Who do these people think they are?”
Cllr Frank McDermott joined the chorus of disapproval and lamented the lack of trout in Glore river between Fore and Castlepollard as his proof of how a move like this wouldn't work.
“The more regulations and laws the more resources seem to worsen. I'm not impressed by this evolution,” he said.
Cllr Tom Allen also voiced support for the objection, saying that when he meets a ranger in the Shannon Callows it comes down to “their word against ours” as regards one's intentions.
Others voicing their disapproval included Cllr Joe Flanagan and Dan McCarthy, although the latter did point out that Ireland had the “least amount of SPAs in Europe”.
Thus it was and so Westmeath County Council passed a motion objecting to the imposition of two more SPAs by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The designated lakes were Glen Lough, three kilometres south west of Rathowen on the Longford border, and two lakes on the Inny immediately south of Lough Sheelin – Lough Kinale and Derragh lough.