Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has claimed that the spread of rhododendron in Killarney National Park is so bad that the army may have to be called in to sort it out.

Speaking during this evening’s Topical Issues debate in the Dáil, Mr Healy-Rae appealed for more resources for Killarney National Park.

He said: “People are inclined to think that when it comes to a national park, that you close the gates and let it off. That you don’t maintain the deer population. You don’t aggressively attack the rhododendrons.

“The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park is gone so bad minister, nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right.”

Responding, Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring said his department spent over €2m in Killarney National Park last year.

On the rhododendron issue, he said: “My department has invested heavily in tackling this invasive species, the control of which is difficult, costly and labour intensive.

“The management of the rhododendron is a long-standing ongoing programme in the national parks.

“In the past approximately 3,000 of the 10,000 hectares in the park were affected. My department remains of the opinion that the management programme has made significant inroads into the problem.

“Approximately 2,000 of the 3,000 hectares are under effective control at 40 different sites.

“Since 2011 the department has invested over €700,000 to tackle the rhododendron clearance in Killarney National Park and in 2016 alone the department spent €209,611 on clearance.

“An updated Strategic Rhododendron Plan is being finalised and the department hopes to publish this in the coming months.”

Mr Healy-Rae said: “You rightly state the money that has been spent but we are losing the war with regard to the rhododendron.”

He said we are also losing the war as deer have taken over and management of the park are being “starved” of money and help.

Later Mr Ring called on the people of Killarney to come in and sit down with the department “to see what support and help they can give us to deal with this very serious problem that we have in Killarney Park”.

In 2014, two hillwalkers had to be rescued after they became trapped in a forest of rhododendron plants in the Knockmealdown Mountains on the Tipperary/Waterford border.

Source RTE News