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Sunday 22 October 2017

'Older farmers were set in their ways': Why this farmer is in favour of wind turbines on his land

My Week: John Duignan

John Duignan and his partner Margaret Finan working with their sheep in Geevagh, Co Sligo. Photo: Brian Farrell
John Duignan and his partner Margaret Finan working with their sheep in Geevagh, Co Sligo. Photo: Brian Farrell

It's been a hectic a time of the year for John Duignan. Between lambing, calving and general maintenance on his 60ac home farm at Geevagh, Co Sligo, he has been flat out; and the working schedule shows no signs of slowing.

"I had a busy day today but the weather was good and that's important," the 43-year-old explained.

"We had two new lambs and two sucklers arrived on the farm today, and in between times I managed to get a bit of fencing done."

He reckons this work rate will continue until after Easter at the very least.

John runs the home farm, along with an additional 100ac of leased land in the locality and shares commonage at nearby Carrin Hill with 12 neighbouring farmers. He describes his farm as "good green land in the valley and dauby land on the hill."

John runs a drystock enterprise and buys and sells stock through the marts at Dowra, Ballymote and Mohill. He currently runs 150 hoggets, 25 ewes and 21 Shorthorn cows, from which he keeps the heifer calves for breeding. "I have been farming since I was four years old when I used to attend the marts with my father.

"I only did my Green Cert in Sligo in 2007, and as luck would have it, they cut the Installation Aid Scheme for young farmers in half just before I achieved the cert."

Government agri schemes are not John's favourite topic of conversation. He is completely underwhelmed by the way the Department of Agriculture is currently administering the GLAS scheme. "We are still waiting for the GLAS payments promised since Christmas, and if you take it that all the farmers on the Carrin Hill commonage are due €5,000 and do the sums and multiply by the number of local farmers affected, that's an awful amount of money not coming into the local economy," he points out.

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Wind Energy

John, who is very active in the INHFA, is an enthusiast of wind energy and says there is a growing interest in the Geevagh area in the possibility of developing a wind farm on Carrin Hill.

The site is located near the former Arigna coal mine, where there were also ambitious plans for such an energy scheme in the area some 20 years ago.

"They measured the wind rates in the Carrin Hill area over 20 years ago and they showed the area had the highest wind rates in the region. For various reasons that original plan did not go ahead, mainly because the older farmers were set in their ways and did not back the idea but there is a more positive attitude to the idea these days," he maintains.

"But if a wind energy project was located on Cairn Hill, there would have to be a serious financial incentive for the local community from whatever power company took it up," John stresses.

John's main interest outside of the farm revolves around the Connemara pony enterprise which his partner, Margaret Finan, a civil servant, is involved in with her father Michael. John says his main function in the pony business is to "hold the reins".

"It's a great interest really. It's brilliant going around the shows in the west buying and selling the ponies. We were at the Mullingar show last week and met up with buyers from abroad. They attend all the shows and it's a great way to spend summer weekends. Rosettes all around. My favourite show is Clifden."

In conversation with Ken Whelan


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