| 5.6°C Dublin

'It's like fining Mary Poppins' - animal lover Breda (70) faces €150 bill for feeding seagulls

Close

Grandmother Breda Moynihan with her fine notice

Grandmother Breda Moynihan with her fine notice

Breda feeding gulls near her home

Breda feeding gulls near her home

Grandmother Breda Moynihan with her fine notice

A pensioner is in a flutter after she was fined €150 for feeding birds in a field outside her home.

Breda Moynihan (70), who lives on the Lee Estate in Limerick, said she "took great joy in feeding the seagulls" that regularly congregate on a green near her house.

However, she was "devastated and disgusted" after a Limerick council worker handed her a €150 fine when he witnessed her throwing breadcrumbs to the birds.

The animal lover, who also gives carrots to horses in the estate and biscuits to cats, said she cannot afford the fine, which was issued under the Litter Pollution Act.

Ms Moynihan was given a form filled in by a council off-icial over "food thrown on a green area".

However, the grandmother, who lives alone, said she will not pay.

Disgusted

"I feed the birds every day. I love animals and just feel like I'm doing good," she said.

"But this council man app-roached me recently saying I'm causing rats, but rats have been around here all the time.

"The birds eat up the bread immediately after I throw it, so I can't be the one to blame.

"I just feel devastated and disgusted at how they could fine someone for simply feeding a few animals."

Ms Moynihan added that, while she is a shy person, she refuses to stay silent on what she considers a "huge injustice".

"I just can't afford to pay the €150. It's a huge amount of money for me, and I'm so worried about the thought of having to pay it," she said.

"I just hope the council will pardon me because I haven't done anything wrong.

"But I'm going to fight this and stand my ground."

Ms Moynihan is being supported by former councillor John Gilligan, who said the fine is "scandalous", especially given the illegal dumping that is taking place across the estate.

He added that instead of fining her, the council should give her a mayoral reception.

"They're for the birds," he said. "Down through the years, we've been highlighting acts of unspeakable cruelty towards animals in Limerick.

"Here's a woman who's the total opposite of that. She's our own Mary Poppins, and they come down and charge her €150 - that's her entire pension gone."

Mr Gilligan said he will contact council boss Kieran Lehane and urge him "to see sense".

"You know, these rules were- n't meant for people like her," he said. "She should be applauded, not persecuted. For God's sake, do the right thing for Limerick and our estate and leave this lady alone.

"Breda feeds the seagulls - that bread is gone in seconds. She's not dumping stews."

Labour councillor Conor Sheehan, who represents the area at City Hall, said: "I just think it's a completely over-the-top draconian response by the council.

"I live in an area where people frequently dump bags of rubbish. I haven't seen any of them landed with a fine. It's totally cruel.

"Whoever issued this fine would want to pull their head out of their backside and realise they can't do this to elderly and vulnerable people.

"It's a disproportionate response."

Limerick City Council was contacted for comment, but had not replied by the time of going to press.

In Dublin, seagulls have been given a bad rap in recent years.

In 2014, Fianna Fail senator Ned O'Sullivan endured a week-long bout of mockery after he spoke openly about how gulls had "lost the run of themselves completely".

He said the birds were "getting so cheeky" that they were attacking young children and "dispossessing them of their lollipops".

Independent councillor Jimmy Guerin previously said seagulls in the Howth area were becoming a "major issue" for residents, with more birds flocking to the coast during the summer months.

Fingal County Council has launched a seagull survey in Howth, Skerries and Balbriggan to establish the number of breeding gulls in the area.

Deterrents

The council said it had no responsibility or statutory obligation to control gulls and could not offer any practical assistance regarding gull deterrents or, in the case of Balbriggan, the removal of nests or eggs.

"Think of your neighbours and don't attract gulls to your garden and vicinity by feeding them," the local authority said in an information leaflet.

"It is not in the gulls' best interest to be eating our food.

"Their natural diet is based on shellfish and other small sea creatures, bird's eggs, insects and earthworms. Too much human food is bad for them."

Dublin City Council could not say if it has fined anyone in recent years for feeding seagulls.

"Your query should be directed to the National Parks & Wildlife Services," a spokesperson told the Herald.