€35m Hen Harrier scheme grounded by contract delays
Farmers in designated areas being treated with 'contempt' - ICMSA
The Government's long awaited €35m Hen Harrier Scheme remains at a "standstill" despite mounting pressure from frustrated farm lobby groups.
Last month, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine identified a preferred project team to administer the scheme to protect the endangered bird of prey, but delays continue to hamper the awarding of the contract.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said: "At the present time, the process is in standstill in accordance with procurement law. When all elements of the procurement process have been completed, the necessary contracts can then be signed."
The ICMSA, IFA and ICSA say the recurrent delays are inexcusable to the estimated 4,500 farmers affected nationwide.
Pat Rohan, chairperson of the ICMSA's farm and rural affairs committee said farmers on designated land, including hen harrier areas, are being "treated with contempt" by the Government and agencies who are "shifting responsibility" from one department to the other.
"The Government and its agencies seem to have settled on a policy that involves designating land while totally ignoring the rights of the individual landowner and then failing miserably to properly compensate them for the losses from severe restrictions," he said.
Speaking after last week's meeting of the Designated Areas Monitoring Committee, Mr Rohan demanded that the Government address landowners' concerns equitably and fairly, or lift the designation.
Farmers on designated land are subject to many severe restrictions on their farming activities, including an effective ban on afforestation since 2011.