The recent TV documentary on the reintroduction of eagles into Irish society reminded me of the most bizarre story I’ve read this year.
A few months back the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Öyvind Nordsletten, pleaded with the people of Kerry, politely mind you, to stop fucking killing their eagles.
As pleas go it caught the eye. It was a page stopper for readers as they say in the newspaper industry.
Norway flew the eagles (first class, Air France) to Ireland three years back for breeding purposes because birds of prey had become about as rare in Hibernia as an Anglo Irish Bank executive peering forlornly out of the back window of a Paddy Wagon, often referred to as a mother’s heart in Mexico City – because there’s always room for one more.
Up to 2007 the raptors, refered to as ‘iolaire sùil na grèine’ or eagle of the sunlit eye, were extinct on this island as they were hunted down, poisoned, shot and had their eggs stolen, in, you guessed it, Kerry, last century.
Leaving aside that Nordsletten may as well have been pleading with Hamas to build a synagogue on the Gaza Strip, the question remains. Why would anyone want to kill these magnificent creatures?
Most people accept that the golden eagle, the osprey, unless in Thomond Park, the white-tailed eagle, red kite and goshawk would be a most welcome introduction to any countryside.
The ultimate bird of prey, they swoop down on their quarry from altitude, like Roy Keane over Alfie Haaland, and snaffle him. They’re intelligent creatures also as their first instinct is to attack and pluck the eyes out of anyone involved with Fianna Fáil, Jedward, Boyzone, Westlife or Chris de Burger.
As said, most people are enthralled by iolaire sùil na grèine. However, in Kerry they have a different view of eagles and life in general. In the Kingdom, on spying an eagle, they find themselves overwhelmed with a sudden impulse to murder it.
So why would anyone want to kill the glorious Haliaeetus albicilla you ask. Freud, who had opinions on Paddy and his various eccentricities, might be the man to answer that. However, it is my view the above behaviour is the ultimate outcome of our ambiguous attitude toward first cousins sleeping with first cousins.
You can get away with this lark for a few generations but somewhere down the line a batch will emerge with that strange light in their eyes.
Moreover, this batch will want to settle in Kerry where they will be plagued with voices in their heads, and these voices, not unlike the voices Jack Nicholson was hearing in The Shining, will compel them to kill eagles – for no other reason than they exist – and to elect Jackie Healy-Rae & sons.
We saw an example of this slacked-jawed, craven ignorance in 2007 when the birds arrived in Ireland from Norway. Our feathered friends from the Land of the Midnight Sun were greeted with a lot of media interest on their return to our shores from their ten-decade exile.
However, around 100 farmers were protesting at their arrival at Kerry airport. I can understand protests at war criminals or Louis Walsh arriving in the country, but I ask you; what breed of arsehole would converge at an airport to protest at the arrival of eagle chicks?
Who organised the protest? How did they convince the farmers to march?. Were they handing out “Down with eagle chicks – they’re quare looking hawks” car stickers in Killarney? Honk your horn if you hate eagles – and that sort of thing.
Over the last three years at least 13 of the 55 eagles reintroduced into Ireland have been poisoned in the Kingdom. It is believed that one bird was shot in Northern Ireland – probably by a retired UDA or Provo type pining for the good old days when a man could lend a purpose to his life murdering Catholics and Protestants.
Meantime, south of the border down Kerry way, the farmers – tormented with those voices in their heads – had convinced themselves that the birds will attack their lambs. Some, outrageously, warned that the eagles will snatch babies from prams.
Ah yes, they’re terrors for snatching bairns from cradles are those Norwegians birds – and exposing themselves to elderly nuns.
Ireland is believed to have the lowest range of breeding birds of prey of all EU countries. During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries most of our birds of prey were killed, mostly in Kerry, and became extinct around 1910.
The majority of the 55 birds introduced in 2007 have survived, thankfully. How much this has to do with the fact that the Gardai are now investigating the spate of poisonings is anyone’s guess.
Commentating on the eagle slayings, the Norwegian ambassador to Ireland said that he hopes that the poisoning will stop – diplomatic language for saying we are a shower of depraved trolls with no respect for man nor beast.
“We in Norway are deeply concerned about the situation and hope that all can be done to make such poisoning illegal. We hope that the unfortunate practice of poisoning will be ended so that this magnificent eagle, that we are very familiar with in Norway, can once again be part of the Irish landscape,” he said.
Maybe Nordsletten should travel down to Kerry to voice his protest in person. He’ll notice when he crosses the border into the county that all the radio stations, no matter how much you fiddle with the dial, are continuously playing the soundtrack from The Twilight Zone or Deliverance.
He’ll also notice that the eagles are soaring over Killarney National Park because the vast majority of people in the Kerry want to see these magnificent birds inhabit their landscape for the first time in a century.
However, there are a few in their midst spreading irrational fear and ignorance despite the fact that no lambs have been attacked by eagles since they arrived here in 2007.
RTE ran an excellent documentary of the White-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, last week, but will they survive in the Kingdom or will a tiny minority of gombeens be allowed to disgrace us in front of the world once again?
Kerry – where eagles dare.