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Friday 28 April 2017

'Department will come up with any old excuse to avoid paying farmers on time'

My week: Seanie Boyle

Seanie Boyle on the family farm in Co Donegal. Photo: Donna McBride
Seanie Boyle on the family farm in Co Donegal. Photo: Donna McBride

Ken Whelan

The Department of Agriculture's handling of their various agriculture schemes leaves a lot to be desired, according to sheep farmer Seanie Boyle, who claims officials will come up with "any old excuse" to avoid paying farmers on time.

At the moment Seanie is waiting for his GLAS payment which was due last December, and like the other 5,000 GLAS farmers is wondering why the Department seems to be incapable of meeting a payment deadline.

"I was due my payment in December, but so far there has been no sign of the money.

"I have done everything on my side of the bargain, including paying for a planner to design the GLAS management scheme, but although I am tipping along well, you need to have this money in case something unusual comes along," the former Donegal county footballer explains.

Seanie has been running the 35ac home farm in Falcarragh with some 120ac of additional commonage since his father, John, and uncle, Paddy, passed away in the early 1990s. He is currently in expansion mode at his lowland and upland sheep enterprise in the north Donegal Gaeltacht region.

Part of his lowland farm is also designated under the special amenity protection legislation as a corncrake ­habitat which sterilises a section production-wise from April until August every year.

The only part of his farm which seems to be ­'bureaucracy free' is the 13ac of forestry, which has to be a relief for the Donegal man who says he sometimes feels he is "either farming for the Department of Agriculture or the environment".

"I can't see why the Department cannot pay GLAS on time and why there cannot be more flexibility with the corncrake and hen harrier protection schemes. I am all for taking care of these birds, but a full and proper management plan for the scheme has to be developed. At the moment, you can't even put up a farm shed on the corncrake land without permission," he adds.

Seanie is married to Gráinne who work with the HSE in Letterkenny and they have three children - Caolan (22), who is finishing an arts degree at St Patrick's College in Dublin, and his two younger sisters Eadaoin (9) and Bláthnaid (2).

Flocks

Delayed payments and corncrakes aside, Seanie is pushing on with his sheep enterprise and intends to expand the lowland and upland flocks incrementally over the next few years, and has been buying in new Mayo breeds to this end.

At the moment, his ewe flock is divided more or less evenly between the Mayos and the traditional Donegal-Scotch breed which had been the ewe of choice up to now.

Off farm, the consuming interest of the 46-year-old is GAA, which is hardly surprising since he captained the Donegal under-21 team during the county's glory days in the early 1990s, and played on the senior team for two years after the county won the All-Ireland in 1992.

During his playing days (he was a full-back for his local and county teams), he received a back injury which is with him to this day. "We didn't have the back-up ­physiotherapy facilities that they have today and the ­injury persisted, and after playing for two years at county level, I was out of the game for four years. I help with the development and training of the younger sides today.

"I suppose the farming did not help. Anyway, I still have the injury today and have to take painkillers on a regular basis for it," Seanie adds.

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