Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 11 December 2017

'All we have had is politicians looking for photo opportunities and then clearing off back to Dublin and doing nothing'

Henry O'Donnell with some of his herd of Black Gallaway cattle which thankfully survived the massive flooding on the hillside farm in Inishowen. (North West Newspix)
Henry O'Donnell with some of his herd of Black Gallaway cattle which thankfully survived the massive flooding on the hillside farm in Inishowen. (North West Newspix)

Ken Whelan

HENRY O’DONNELL counts himself relatively lucky that only about 10 acres of his holding was affected by last month’s severe storms in Donegal.

“I had a 10-acre field of red clover badly affected by the storms but my neighbour had all his fencing washed away during the rains and he had only completed re-fencing his farm,” says Henry.

“I could see what was happening from my kitchen window but luckily I was on the right side of the Crana riv­er and wasn’t badly affected.

“Farmers up here took a back seat when the storms struck first.

“They didn’t want to be complaining considering the awful amount of dam­age caused by the storms to people’s homes in the area and to the bridges and roads all around, but now that the storms have passed the prob­lems caused to the farming community will have to be addressed.”

Henry (50) estimates that up to 300 farms on Inishow­en were damaged to varying degrees by the storms.

Henry O'Donnell stands in one of the craters on a road leading to his farm, caused by the massive flood waters on the hills around Inishowen. (North West Newspix)
Henry O'Donnell stands in one of the craters on a road leading to his farm, caused by the massive flood waters on the hills around Inishowen. (North West Newspix)

He farms 90 hectares of owned land and common­age near the Sliabh Sneacht mountain in Drumfries on the Inishowen peninsula where he runs a suckler and sheep enterprise. He is married to Susan and the couple have two young daughters, Ellie (12) and Ava (7).

There are 30 acres around the farmhouse which he uses for grazing and silage, with the rest of his land located in and around the landmark mountain. He has some 80 sheep on the mountain and a dozen continental sucklers as his main farming enterprise.

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Recently he introduced a herd of 16 Galloway cattle to the farm, and along with around a dozen neighbours the plan is to develop their own Sliabh Sneacht beef brand for the Irish market.

Henry reckons this can be achieved within the next two years.

An activist with the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers As­sociation and local LEADER company, Henry helped devel­op the Sliabh Sneacht centre which is a community hub for the region.

He has also been involved in the post-storm talks with the Department of Agricul­ture on how to get the affect­ed Inishowen farms back to full production.

Henry O'Donnell with some of his prize herd of Black Gallaway cattle which thankfully survived the massive flooding on the hillside farm in Inishowen. (North West Newspix)
Henry O'Donnell with some of his prize herd of Black Gallaway cattle which thankfully survived the massive flooding on the hillside farm in Inishowen. (North West Newspix)

The Department has announced targeted funding to apply to losses of livestock, fodder and a contribution towards clean-up costs, such as damage to fences. How­ever, only losses not covered by insurance will be eligible for consideration. He feels more could be done for those impacted.

“All we have had is politi­cians looking for photo op­portunities and then clearing off back to Dublin and doing nothing. We have had enough of that,” says Henry.

But he is quick to exclude Donegal County Council from his criticisms. “They have been exceptional,” he says.

“They have diggers at the affected roads and riverbanks clearing up and are helping with the fencing of land.”

Like his farming neigh­bours, Henry is quite clear about what needs to be done.

His list includes critical short-term actions like giving temporary derogations to the Inishowen farmers in the GLAS scheme, temporarily suspending farm inspections in the region and front-load­ing 70pc of the basic farm payment to give the affected farmers the financial ability to get their enterprises back to normal.

Henry maintains that these would be short-term and cost-effective measures which would address the problems of the farmers concerned.

He adds that he is not holding his breath waiting for action from Agriculture House in Dublin on the pro­posed aid scheme.


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