Horse-drawn carriages have been banned from Killarney National Park after drivers refused to fit their horses with “nappies”.
The traditional vehicles, known as jaunting cars, carry tourists around 15km internal roads around the park.
But the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) yesterday (Tuesday 14 July) banned carriages from entering the park until dung-catching devices are fitted.
More than one million people visit the park annually, and the NPWS has received complaints about dung on the roads.
“An unfortunate consequence of such a high volume of horses frequenting the park is that the roadways are consistently fouled with horse dung and has for a long time, been a concern on environmental, health and safety, aesthetic and tourism grounds,” said statement from the NPWS.
It added that the drivers, known as “jarveys”, had “shown an unwillingness to co-operate with the new requirements” and that the roads were being cleaned at the taxpayers expense.
But the jarveys of the 66 carriages at Killarney National Park claim the dung catchers unbalance their horses and will affect passenger safety.
Paul Tangney, who has been operating jaunting carts in Killarney National Park for 25 years, told local press the ban would be bad for the tourism industry and that the devices were “just too dangerous”.
“This is devastating. This is a national disgrace and we are very, very upset over it,” he said.
“We’re going to lose contracts and Killarney is going to lose money because tourists won’t bother coming.”
But the NPWS said it had been in talks with the drivers since 2007 over how to tackle the dung issue. It added veterinary experts had been consulted and that the proposed dung receptacle had undergone a number of tests.
“Although the dung catcher is attached to the car and not to the horse, jarveys have repeatedly signalled their complete opposition to the new devices but have never demonstrated where they perceive the problems to lie,” said the NPWS.
“But it [the dung-catcher] is in widespread usage internationally, from Vienna to Vancouver. It is clear, therefore, that these devices do work and are safe to use.
“The NPWS emphasizes its desire to avoid conflict and has acted in a fair and reasonable manner but has been compelled to take this action as a very last resort”
The NPWS added it is happy for the jarveys to continue to use this park but that they must own up to their responsibilities.