A new provision to allow roadside hedge cutting in the month of August has been defended by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Heather Humphreys told the Dáil the provision, which is being made in the Heritage Bill 2016, is necessary to enhance road safety in rural Ireland. 

She rejected suggestions by Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne, who said it was "a fraud" to suggest that the provision had anything to do with road safety.

"Many birds are still using the hedge rows to nest in the month of August... including the yellowhammer, which is still breeding in the month of August.

"The idea that this bill is about road safety is just an utter fraud," he said.

But Minister Humphreys said the provision was being proposed to harmonise road safety and wildlife legislation.

She said it was "unjustified" to suggest that it was a fraud.

"It is not about widespread heavy cutting of hedges, it simply allows a person to trim a hedge in the month of August in certain instances only.

"Any trimming in August will only be in the current season's growth and may only be carried out on roadsides," she said.

"If heavier cutting of hedges is required they must do so between September to February," she added.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said "if the hedge is blocking the view of road users in August, it will allow a hedge to be cut.

"This is a serious issue on local byroads in rural Ireland where the hedges are growing out on roads, damaging cars and restricting the views of road users."

The legislation would allow a landowner, rather than a local authority worker to cut the hedge.

"The reality is that local authorities do not have the manpower to be out inspecting and trimming hedges," she said.

"We cannot have a situation where people are damaging their cars and accidents are being caused because people cannot see around corners due to overgrown hedges" said the minister.