“Wholesale destruction” of Sean Walsh Park wetland causes outrage

by Padraig Conlon

Damage to a wetland area in Tallaght known for its biodiversity has been described as “wholesale destruction.”

The wetland area in Sean Walsh Park was bulldozed over the weekend, potentially killing thousands of animals, including rare eels and amphibians.

In a statement released on Facebook on Saturday, the Herpetological Society of Ireland (HIS), a group dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of amphibians and reptiles, described the wetland as a “vibrant multi-layered ecosystem”.

The HSI found the site last year while surveying Tallaght for potential pond sites as part of a project to link up existing populations of urban amphibians in the area.

Even though the pond section is still largely intact, the rest of the wetland area is destroyed and now covered with mud and silt.

A former waste ground and dumpsite for silt dredged from local ponds, the park regenerated naturally over many years and was thriving with newts, frogs, bats and the critically endangered European eel.

Collie Ennis, a HSI science officer and lead on the wetland project, said the destruction of the wetland was “a punch in the gut” after working for months documenting species and meeting with the Council.  

“I’m completely heartbroken,” he said on a statement on Twitter on Saturday.

The Green Party Councillors on South Dublin County Council have also condemned what they have called “wholesale destruction.”

Cllr. Francis Noel Duffy said: “We are trying to find out what’s behind this wholesale destruction of a valuable carbon sink and habitat for biodiversity.

“I’ve been in touch with council management to try to ascertain what happened, but it’s a massive blow for the county in the wake of us declaring a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency on the strength of a Green Party motion that received unanimous support at the last council meeting.”

Cllr. Liam Sinclair said: “This is heartbreaking.

“During the recent election campaign, I visited the wetlands and learned about their importance; and I lost a breath when I was shown the scenes of destruction there.

“This is not good enough.”

South Dublin County Council’s “Tallaght Brochure” published this month features the wetlands as part of the development of Sean Walsh Park.

There has been no clear explanation yet from as to who carried out the work which caused the drainage at the site.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Dublin John Lahart has appealed to South Dublin City Council to immediately explain the destruction and for an internal enquiry to be carried out.

Deputy Lahart said: “On the day hundreds of thousands of students were marching for climate action, local conservationists in Tallaght discovered the complete destruction by South Dublin County Council of a parcel of wetland in one of its own parks, Sean Walsh Park. 

“This was in the week when the Council itself had launched a new Local Area Plan for Tallaght.  Included in this Action Plan is a recognition of the fact that this park contains a river system and numerous eco-system services benefiting wildlife protection and enhancing human activity … through the provision of ecological corridors”.

Deputy Lahart has called the CEO of the council to conduct an internal enquiry to explain how the destruction could occur.

“Bizarrely, South Dublin County Council has been most supportive and encouraging, including with practical assistance, of local conservationists, led by Collie Ennis, a research associate at Trinity College and a Science Officer with the Herpetological Society of Ireland.

“The Chief Executive of the Council needs to immediately conduct an internal enquiry into how this has happened and provide the public with an immediate explanation of how this scandalous development came to take place. I will be raising this very concerning issue as a matter in the Dáil this week,” concluded Deputy Lahart.

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