The Committee held its fourth Open Forum during the joint IWC/RSPB conference in Wicklow on 30 March 1996 with approximately 35 observers in attendance. The event was almost entirely taken up with queries put by a single individual who expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with the performance of the IRBC. The resulting exchange was marked by strongly opposing viewpoints on many practical matters. Those in attendance voiced little support for, or opposition to, the criticisms directed at the Committee and we were disappointed that there was a minimal contribution from the other observers present. However, it appeared that the event suffered because of the confrontational attitude adopted by this individual.
We wish to emphasise the fact that the IRBC initiated the concept of open fora with the aim of enabling matters related to the Committee's work to be debated in an open, constructive and realistic way. We will review the format of such fora in the future as we are not entirely convinced that the present structure is the best way to elicit observers' opinions on the work of the IRBC.
The following were the salient points arising from the discussions:-
- The Committee had compiled a list of unsubstantiated rarities which had been reported in various publications. This list was distributed to all present at the forum and further copies were sent to regular contributors to the Irish Bird Report. It was the intention to distribute it to all other active observers in an effort to remedy the deficit in the official record of rarities that had occurred in Ireland.
- Considerable criticism was voiced about the slow progress being made by the IRBC in reviewing both older and difficult records. The Committee felt that significant progress had been made in this area some years ago but acknowledged that there had been an unfortunate slowdown in the momentum generated at that time. It was the IRBC's firm intention to start a number of reviews in the near future.
- A major criticism was that the IRBC had not yet produced a checklist of Irish birds. The advantages of a checklist were that it would provide an authoritative list of the birds recorded in Ireland and it would show the Committee's stance on taxonomy, English names and record categories. The Committee's conservative views on taxonomy also came in for sustained criticism, mainly because in the absence of an official checklist, it was not clear what the official thinking was on some of the contentious issues. It was explained that work on a checklist of Irish birds was well advanced and it was intended that it would be ready for publication in 1997.