Bats are protected by law in the Republic of Ireland under the Wildlife Act 1976 and subsequent amendments. In Northern Ireland, bats are protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. In both jurisdictions there is a similar level of protection; it is an offence to intentionally disturb, injure or kill a bat or disturb its resting place and any work on a roost must be carried out with the advice of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the Republic, or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.
In addition to domestic legislation bats are also protected under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). The lesser horseshoe bat which is found in the Republic of Ireland only is listed in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive, while all bat species are listed in Annex IV of the same Directive. The EU Habitats Directive has been transposed into both Irish and Northern Irish law with the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 and the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 as amended.
The level of protection offered to lesser horseshoe bats effectively means that areas important for this species are designated as Special Areas of Conservation. For remaining bats, the EU requires that they are strictly protected. Among Ireland’s obligations under this Directive we are obliged to ‘maintain favourable conservation status’ of Annex-listed species.
For all bats it is an offence to disturb, injure or kill bats or disturb or destroy their roosts. This does not mean, for example, that essential roof repairs cannot be carried out because bats are present in an attic. In general it would mean that roof repair works should be carried out outside the active season for bats while they are not present, and using materials that are suitable for use in a bat roost. Roost entrances/exits also need to be retained. It is important to discuss any plans for work on a bat roost prior to commencement with the statutory authority responsible for bat conservation. In the Republic this is the National Parks and Wildlife Service, while in Northern Ireland this is the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
A number of guidelines have been drawn up to address survey requirements and mitigation for bats as part of new or ongoing developments, such as national roads, wind farms etc. See our Bats and Developments page for further details.