Ireland's wildlife logo.

Raptors in the firing line on national radio show

Pat Kenny NewstalkA social media storm is brewing surrounding an ill-informed and disturbingly inaccurate radio interview about birds conducted on the Pat Kenny Show on national Irish radio station Newstalk FM yesterday (Wed 14 January).

On the show, host Pat Kenny (pictured left) introduced Biochemistry Professor, Luke O’Niell (yes, you read that right — a professor of biochemistry), about the massive decline in bird numbers. The thirteen minutes or so of discussion that followed was little short of horrific, with raptors (defined on the show as “those horrible birds of prey”), crows and magpies all copping the blame for the global decline in small bird numbers.

The dynamic duo go on to suggest that protecting birds of prey is a bad thing (wrong), that the rising number of red kites in Ireland are a menace as they attack and eat smaller birds (wrong) and decry the fact that the general public are not allowed to take “pot shots” at magpies and crows. I could go on and on, but I really couldn’t hope to do the piece justice… so you’re much better off listening to it yourself and drawing your own conclusions.

It’s peppered with errors and misguided conclusions based on anything but solid science.

I think this twitter post from Ruth O’Dwyer about sums it up:

It’s not just a question of making silly mistakes either — painting raptors as villains in the story of small bird decline is potentially damaging, not just in terms of raptor persecution, but also to the broader public perception of wildlife conservation in this country. And let’s face it, we already have a woeful track record in the area.

To be fair, Professor O’Neill did issue a public apology last night on twitter in response to @WildIreland, but as I pointed out, most listeners won’t see it on Twitter, and it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

I feel that this demands a much more comprehensive retraction of these erroneous statements, as do the team over at Birdwatch Ireland, who posted this on their Facebook page this morning:

If, after listening to the piece you feel the same way, then I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to email the show on [email protected] or send a tweet to @PatKennyNT and @NewstalkFM demanding an on-air apology and full retraction to help put things right.

Update: See this post on the issue from the Raptor Persecution Scotland blog, including an email to Professor O’Neill from Dr. Allan Mee, who leads the white-tailed eagle reintroduction project with the Golden Eagle Trust.

Update: For the REAL science-based facts see this response on the Ecology & Evolution blog of the School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, including an unreserved apology from Professor O’Neill.


  • Hugh Webster

    Ecological hate speech feeding prejudice amongst the ignorant and benighted. Should be punishable with a fine at least and shame on Professor O’Neil for spouting this rubbish. An academic should know better, even if it’s not a field he knows anything about. But then why was he asked to comment in the first place?!

  • was wondering why our comment/post was removed?? World of Owls NI

    • Avatar photo

      It wasn’t Mike… I didn’t see it last night, and was away from the computer today so only moderating it now. Thanks for contributing.

      • Thanks Calvin, i tried to log on earlier and didnt see it as i wanted to pass it on to a CREDIBLE journalist in Northern Ireland. I am so pleased that Mr Tony Warburton MBE replied and is in agreement. Mr Warburton IS an expert in this area.

  • What a buffoon. How on earth did he get his Professor title? Sadly, his feeble apology is too late. Unfortunately, other idiots will believe him and the raptor haters will jump on his ravings as ‘proof’ that raptors need controlling. This madman has set back raptor conservation by light years. We can only pray that not many people heard the interview. As for Pat Kenny – well words fail me on that one. The worst kind of sensationalist journalism for sensation sake one could imagine. Sack him.

  • World of Owls is Northern Ireland’s only Owl and Bird of Prey education and rescue centre. I have around 25 years experience of birds of prey within Ireland and i must say listening to this drivel has disheartened me greatly thinking of all the hard work ALL organisations do towards wildlife including birds of prey on our Island. I agree that a public apology would be the least they could do. Birds of prey are indeed one of our Islands wildlife treasurers, they are persecuted enough without this nonsense being aired to influence members of the public.

  • Leo Whieldon

    For goodness sake

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.