Farmer says Government turning West of Ireland into a tourist dependent region
My Week: Brendan O'Malley
The gradual dismantling of the LEADER rural development fund by the Government will turn the West of Ireland into a tourist dependent region rather than an agricultural one, says Brendan O'Malley.
The straight talking 51-year-old says that the small farmers in the west will see their farms turned into Special Areas of Conservation unless there is a radical rethink by the authorities on the future of agriculture in the region.
Brendan runs a herd of 20 Galloway/Aberdeen Angus pedigree cattle at his 80 acre holding in Bothesial near Recess in Connemara along some 70 mountain sheep on commonage nearby. "The animals are easy on the ground and easy on the pocket," he says.
Brendan, who is married to Ann with whom he has a 12-year-old son, Peter, bought his farm some 30 years ago. He sells his cattle as replacements through the various online agri sales sites and his sheep through the mart at Maam Cross.
He's out on the bog as we are having our conversation and it quickly becomes obvious that the pebble in his shoe about the LEADER programme is more like a boulder.
"LEADER funds are down from €460m when the scheme began to around €250m today and the local leadership which was part and parcel of the scheme at the beginning has been handed over to the local government county managers and Pobal.
"The LEADER companies in Galway have seen their funding going down from an initial €15m a year to €3m today.
"And in the old scheme a project could get the go-ahead within a year but now it takes over two years to get approval," he claims.