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Hill farmers accuse IFA of committing 'sabotage'

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Tommy Heverin from Tourmakeady at the hill farmers' recent public meeting in Westport

Tommy Heverin from Tourmakeady at the hill farmers' recent public meeting in Westport

Tommy Heverin from Tourmakeady at the hill farmers' recent public meeting in Westport

The rift between hill farmers in the west and IFA headquarters has deepened this week following moves by Donegal IFA to schedule a competing meeting just five days before the Hill Farmers For Action meeting in Letterkenny this Friday.

Notice of the latest meeting only began to circulate in local media in Donegal over the weekend, almost a full week after the newly formed Hill Farmers for Action group announced that they were intending to host another monster meeting in Letterkenny's Clanree hotel on Friday, September 5.

"It was with great surprise and disappointment that we learned that Donegal IFA were organising a meeting at short notice five days before the meeting organised by ordinary hill and commonage farmers in Donegal," said a statement from the Hill Farmers For Action group this week.

"Donegal IFA have never organised a meeting specifically for hill and commonage farmers before," it continued, before it questioned whether the IFA was standing up for "ordinary" farmers' rights.

"Instead of this it is apparent to us that calling this meeting was an attempt to confuse ordinary farmers.

"The spectacle of a national organisation purporting to represent ordinary farmers attempting to bully and sabotage the efforts of genuine farmers trying to stand up for themselves only serves to copper-fasten the view that the IFA, like so many other organisations across public life in Ireland, are more interested in protecting the organisation and the elite within it than the welfare of the grassroots on the ground," continued the Hill Farmers' For Action statement.

"We appeal to IFA to get behind the ordinary farmers of Donegal fighting for their survival and prove that they have the ordinary farmers interests at heart," it continued.

The group was hoping to repeat the massive turnout of 1,700 farmers in Westport almost two weeks ago in order to send a strong message of dissatisfaction to the Government about the GLAS programme that has been sent for approval to Brussels.

A statement from the IFA said that the organisation decided to organise a series of meetings to update members on the Rural Development Programme, including hill farming and commonage issues a number of weeks ago.

"These include meetings held last week, a meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon and in Donegal on Monday, and further meetings in Cork and Limerick this week," it said in a statement.

The meetings will update farmers on RDP and commonage issues, including developments following discussions between the IFA and the Minister for Agriculture and officials from the Department of Agriculture last week.

Brendan Joyce, who is part of the Hill Farmers for Action group said that hill and commonage farmers rejected the proposal that they must enter into a management plan with a planner, who would co-ordinate all the plans for each commonage.

"What will happen to the farmer that has shares in several different commonages?," he asked.

"Either he'll have to pay fees to several different planners or get one planner to liaise with other planners for each commonage - and I don't think there's any planner out there who will take on with that," said Mr Joyce.

Instead, he is proposing that commonage farmers would automatically get into GLAS on the understanding that they would implement a review.

"We're not actually looking for any more money," he added.

"There's really only two amendments required so that we aren't forced to enter plans that are rushed," he said.

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