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HSE stays silent on felling of 200 trees in Merlin Woods


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

HSE stays silent on felling of 200 trees in Merlin Woods HSE stays silent on felling of 200 trees in Merlin Woods

From the Galway City Tribune – The wait for answers went on this week as the HSE maintained its silence over cutting down up to 200 mature trees in Merlin Woods.

As revealed by the Galway City Tribune last week, the HSE, which owns a significant part of the woods adjacent to Merlin Park University Hospital, engaged contractors to fell scores of mature ash trees – citing “health and safety” concerns.

In a response to this newspaper, it claimed that ash dieback had weakened the limbs on the trees, some of which were 150 to 200 years old, which increased the likelihood of falling branches.

But the works drew sharp criticism as no environmental impact assessment had been provided to those questioning the works, and significant damage to the EU-protected Merlin Meadows was caused in the process of felling the trees.

Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods said neither she nor the councillors seeking answers from the HSE had received any update since works concluded late last week.

“We are in the process of lodging an official complaint with Galway City Council and the HSE, and if we still receive no correspondence, we will be taking this further,” said Ms Stanley.

“Cllr Martina O’Connor and Cllr Alan Cheevers received correspondence from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, but it said nothing more than the matter was being referred to the Department of Environment. Nobody from the HSE is answering questions.

“They have cut down at least 100 trees surrounding the meadows, and many more along the perimeter and the avenue. The damage done to the meadows was actually done after we had contacted them,” she said.

The damage she was referring to is deep tyre marks in the EU Annex 1 Lowland Hay Meadow which is a protected area.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

Cllr Martina O’Connor said the HSE was taking a “dictatorial” approach and refusing to engage with the Council or the community about its actions.

“To me, this seems like a desktop exercise that was signed off by someone without considering the consequences,” said the Green Party councillor.

The City Council, which owns part of the woods, had not been informed in advance, said Cllr O’Connor, and the HSE continued its refusal to engage with Friends of Merlin Woods.

Meanwhile Ms Stanley said they would persist in seeking answers.

“If we don’t get accountability for this, who knows what they’ll come along and do next year.

“All we want is for the HSE to sit down with the City Council and come up with a proper management strategy for the woodlands and for the meadows – it’s a very simple request,” she said, adding that Friends of Merlin Woods had repeatedly tried to engage with the HSE in the past, to no avail.

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