Bull Island nature reserve and dogs

Sir, – Launching his party’s policy on biodiversity on Bull Island in Dublin, Green Party leader Eamonn Ryan stated that the nature reserve on Bull Island was threatened by rising sea levels, plastic pollution and rising sea levels. He did not mention a more immediate threat which is the failure by Dublin City Council to manage Bull Island as a nature reserve over the past 30 years. Uncontrolled access to the island by dog walkers, many of whom let their dogs off leads, has led to the disappearance of hares and and the reduction to very small numbers of little terns, skylark, linnet, reed bunting, red-poll and owl.

Dublin City Council states on its website that Bull Island has been designated as a national bird sanctuary, a Unesco biosphere reserve, a national nature reserve, a special protection area under the EU birds directive and a special area of conservation under the EU habitats directive, while also being the subject of a special amenity area order. The council has totally failed to maintain the island in a way that meets the requirements of these designations. Ironically, the map of Bull Island produced by the council shows the hare, now long gone, the cuckoo now also probably gone, a ringed plover nesting at the Sutton end, now gone because of the beach-buggies which disrupt its nesting, the short-eared owl, now very uncommon, and a bar-tailed godwit, now under pressure because of poor management of the nature reserve.

I run on the island at least five times every week and every time I am there, I encounter dog walkers who let their dogs off leads and allow them to run into the dunes to chase the wildlife. There used be signs on the island stating that dogs should be kept on leads but these have been removed

Despite their neglect of the nature reserve on Bull Island, the council now proposes to build a monstrously intrusive “discovery centre” near the entrance to the beach, for which an entry fee will be charged. The existing interpretive centre which has been allowed to become run down is rarely visited and is sometimes not even open at the times advertised.


The council should immediately limit the area of the island accessible to dog walkers and employ a warden to enforce the rule that dogs must be kept on leads. An area at the northern end of the island should be fenced off and made inaccessible in order to facilitate ground-nesting birds. (An area was fenced off until the 1990s when the fence was broken down and not restored)

Dublin is fortunate to have an important nature reserve only seven kilometres from the city centre. It is very disturbing that Dublin City Council seems to care so little for such a valuable amenity that it has neglected its conservation and now plans to hasten its decline by building a discovery centre which will display pictures of birds and mammals which may have disappeared by the time the discovery centre is built, because of the council’s failure to conserve them. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 13.