18 Aug 2022

Offaly County Council planning to stop using harmful chemicals

Laois County Council to trial 'herbicide free' weedkiller offered free by Portarlington company

Council worker spraying weedkiller

Offaly County Council is aiming to stop its use of harmful chemicals when trying to get rid of unwanted vegetation.

During their recent May meeting, Cllr Mark Hackett, in a motion, called on the Council to stop using glyphosate and other chemical based / non organic herbicides in all circumstances except for the control of invasive species. He said this should be done because of the biodiversity crisis.

A great advantage, of course, of chemical herbicides over mechanical weed control is the ease of application, which often saves on the cost of labour.

Cllr Hackett received support from all the other councillors. His motion was seconded by Cllr Clare Claffey.

Cllr Tony McCormack said weeds are often growing back not long after being treated and are therefore a difficult thing to keep on top of.

Cllr John Clendennen said he agreed with Cllr Hackett “but we also need to think of the Council workers on the ground. If we get rid of the chemical herbicides then we may see a lot more weeds than we want in the graveyards and the town parks. I think we should reduce the amount of spraying but not full elimination.”

Cllr Danny Owens said the chemical herbicides should be gradually phased out but not in one fell swoop.

Cllr John Leahy agreed that the herbicides should be gradually phased out.

Cllr Hackett commented that the councillors were evidently saying yes to the idea, but not now to its implementation.

He said that glyphosate (also known as Round Up) has been linked to cancer, in some studies. He pointed out that other Councils are completely getting rid of it. “This week is National Biodiversity Week. If this motion doesn't go through today then it will be a travesty. I wonder what the media will make of the Council if it doesn't do what should be done in this instance and agree to act out the spirit of this motion.”

Director of Services Tom Shanahan told Cllr Hackett that the Council wants to end its use of chemical herbicides. “We apply glyphosate to footpaths and kerbed areas a few times during the summer. We have funded studies to look for alternatives and we can brief you on this. At the moment the only alternative is to manually remove the weeds but this is very time intensive and is hard work.”

Cllr Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach, told Mr Shanahan that the motion had been passed by the councillors. “We can honour the spirit of the motion,” said Mr Shanahan, “but it is not practical for us at the moment to implement it. Our aim is to phase out chemical herbicides completely but not yet. We have already reduced the amount of herbicide that we use.”

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