Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Farmers go to EU to secure commonages payments

MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan. Photo: Brian Farrell
MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan. Photo: Brian Farrell

Evidence has been presented to the European Parliament in the case of eight Irish farmers who have been left out of pocket by up to €30,000 following Department of Agriculture findings on the grazing quality of their commonage.

The eight farmers have shareholdings in the Keelderry commonage in Slieve Aughty, Co Galway.

MEP Luke Ming Flanagan said it was "deeply unfair and counterproductive" to penalise landowners who complied in good faith with previous regulations.

"This issue highlights more than ever the need for an independent appeals process in relation to CAP payments, a process in which farmers can have full confidence that their appeals will be treated in a fair and timely manner," he said about the case which was brought before the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament yesterday.

One of the affected farmers told how he had retired from farming completely in frustration with the long-running case.

Another told of the stress suffered after payments were withheld while he had three children in college. His payments were paid after he went to the High Court to secure the monies.

Barrister Theresa Murphy told MEPS that the commonage farmers had suffered an extreme delay which deprived them of any "meaningful access to justice" in Ireland.

The farmers brought the case back before the Petitions Committee for a second time after it previously recommended an independent review be carried out.

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However, the farmers say a review by the Department of Agriculture was carried out by a number of officials who were previously involved in the case.

Ms Murphy said some of the farmers were not informed of the findings and penalties for up to three years after the payments were due.

The farmers had their 2011 and 2012 Single Farm Payment and DAS payments withheld after Department officials reported in October 2010 that the commonage had no forage to graze.

However, the officials did report there were horses grazing on the land on the day of inspection.

It had previously been considered 90pc forage and adjoining commonages had continued to be considered to be as much as 95pc forage.

In 2011, the Department declared that the Keelderry land consisted of 10pc forage. Some shareholders since received a payment on the smaller acreage.

Ms Murphy added that the case could have potential impacts for other commonages.

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