Northern Ireland

DUP's Jim Shannon likens grey squirrels to Hamas

DUP MP Jim Shannon. Picture by Richard Townshend/UK Parliament
DUP MP Jim Shannon. Picture by Richard Townshend/UK Parliament DUP MP Jim Shannon. Picture by Richard Townshend/UK Parliament

DUP MP Jim Shannon has likened the north's grey squirrel population to Palestinian militant group Hamas.

His remarks in Westminster on Tuesday came as MPs considered ways to protect the native red squirrel population.

Grey squirrels were introduced first into Britain from North America in the late 1800s, as an ornamental species to populate the grounds of stately homes.  


The native red squirrel has been pushed almost to extinction by the non-native grey squirrel. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA
The native red squirrel has been pushed almost to extinction by the non-native grey squirrel. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA The native red squirrel has been pushed almost to extinction by the non-native grey squirrel. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA

They were introduced to Ireland over the subsequent decades and had established in the north of the country by the 1960s.

When the grey squirrel arrives in a area populated by red squirrels, the latter's population usually disappears within 15 years. 

The grey squirrels' rapid colonisation of Britain and Ireland, assisted by the introduction of previously unknown diseases, has been likened to the European conquest of the Americas.

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Mr Shannon said: "The Ards Red Squirrel Group is full of fantastic volunteers who work tirelessly to protect the future of the red squirrel in my constituency of Strangford, particularly at Mount Stewart.

Grey squirrels are not native to Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson/PA
Grey squirrels are not native to Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Grey squirrels are not native to Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson/PA

"The organisation is led by the National Trust Mount Stewart ranger team, and they are in constant contact with local landowners to monitor red squirrels and eradicate any greys that venture in.

“Indeed, the issue is the very presence of grey squirrels – grey squirrels are the Hamas of the squirrel world.”

He went on to suggest there should be “greater integration” between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local red squirrel groups in the devolved institutions to ensure they have the "means necessary to preserve and expand the red squirrel species throughout Northern Ireland".