Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said there must be a “full and rigorous investigation” into the causes and consequences of the wildfire that destroyed swathes of the Mournes at the weekend.
The South Down MP was commenting following confirmation from the Fire & Rescue Service on Monday that they believe the fire was started deliberately.
Chris Hazzard said:
“The Mournes’ fire covered nearly four square kilometres; required more than 100 firefighters; Coastguard air support; and an extensive multi-agency community response.
“Significantly however it also devastated wildlife habitat; poisoned our water and air; and released damaging greenhouse gases.
“While nobody will be surprised that the fire was deliberate, the fact that somebody would act in such a reckless and careless manner is sickening.
“Fundamentally a cultural shift is required on the burning of land for agricultural purposes.
“Not only is the current prescribed period of burning far too late in the year (mid April) but we need to urgently reassess the environmental impact of burning – especially peatland areas which play a vital role in the storage of carbon.
“So the Environment Minister must look urgently at the issue of the burning of peatlands and look to promote unprecedented rewilding and ‘high nature value’ schemes to benefit farmers and landowners.
“Governments north and south can no longer turn a blind eye to ecocidal practices; if this weekend is not a watershed moment in the battle to protect our most precious habitats then we should hang our heads in shame.
“The arsonists who were skulking about in the early hours of Friday morning should be dealt with in the same manner in which we would deal with somebody setting fire to buildings in the middle of the night.”