BirdWatch Ireland condemns Minister-approved destruction of seagull eggs in north Dublin

Order allowing eggs or nests to be destroyed until next April in Balbriggan to reduce seagull attacks and noise

BirdWatch Ireland has condemned as a breach of European Union law a decision by the Minister for Housing to approve the removal and destruction of seagull eggs in Balbriggan, north Co Dublin.

Darragh O’Brien has signed an order allowing the removal of nests or eggs of three species of gulls in his Dublin Fingal constituency until next April because they “represent a threat to health and safety” following long-standing problems with gulls attacking people for food.

Balbriggan has become home to a growing population of seagulls, with birds nesting on roofs of homes and businesses in the town, and this has led to complaints of excessive noise at night from their cries, particularly during breeding season, and seen one school stopping children from going outside to eat their lunches because of the risk of attack by the birds.

Seagulls are legally protected under the EU’s Birds Directive, but the ministerial order will allow nests and eggs to be destroyed during next year’s breeding season.


The decision, signed off by the Minister in July, allow officials, under a permit, to take and destroy the nests or eggs of the herring gull, the greater black-backed gull and the lesser black-backed gull from August until the end of April. The order allows people to deal with gulls on private properties but it is not clear yet whether a State agency or the local authority will carry out a more general campaign of destruction.

Oonagh Duggan, head of advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland, said it believes the decision is in breach of an EU directive because the State has not complied with strict tests required to allow derogations from the law that protects wild birds during the breeding and rearing of chicks.

“This is the fifth year in a row that the state has defied EU law. It sends out a terrible message during a biodiversity emergency when the State itself sends out a message that viable bird eggs are disposable,” she said.

The group said it had “compassion for any person impacted negatively by breeding herring gulls during the short period when they are acting as protective parents” and that it fully supported “proper implementation of the derogation to the letter of the law”.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said the department takes the EU Birds Directive “very seriously” but that the directive allows member states to derogate from the legislation in the interests of public heath and safety, the grounds cited for Mr O’Brien’s order.

Dublin Fingal Labour TD Duncan Smith said seagulls had become a “massive” health and safety problem in Balbriggan.

Former Sinn Féin councillor in Balbriggan Malachy Quinn said:

“There is an issue with schools around the town centre and crèches and play schools. I am aware of two crèches which have had to put netting above because they couldn’t bring the children out in the good weather because of the seagulls.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times