The Countryside Alliance has welcomed an urgent extension to general licences in Northern Ireland, but are concerned that they are valid only until December 31, 2022.

General licences permit authorised persons, including farmers, pest controllers and gamekeepers, to carry out activities like pest control covering certain types of birds including magpies and crows to preserve public health or air safety, and prevent the spread of disease.

They also cover situations that are regarded as relatively commonplace such as protecting livestock from predators and where there is unlikely to be any great conservation impact.

General licences avoid the need for people to apply for individual licences for these specific circumstances.

Gary McCartney, director of the Countryside Alliance in Northern Ireland said:

“The ability of those involved in farming as well as pest controllers, game keepers and land managers to control certain species in the interest of human, livestock and wildlife safety under general licences is vital to the smooth running of the countryside.

“While we welcome the latest update that these licences will be extended until December 31, 2022, we urge the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs [DAERA] to ensure a situation like this never arises again.

“Rural workers and those involved in pest control cannot afford to be weighed down by unnecessary, complex bureaucracy.

“We will seek assurances that these licences will be renewed again, well within time and with all interested stakeholders updated fully in advance.”