Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 23 July 2018

€100,000 legal challenge to Department's land ID system waiting on court date

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Eoghan MacConnell

Over €100,000 raised by 1,700 farmers in support of a legal challenge against cuts to the Single Farm Payments is being held as a 'kind of insurance' as the challenge continues.

The money was collected in 2016 when farmers, predominantly in Cork and Kerry, decided to take a legal challenge against the Department of Agriculture over cuts to the payments following a Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) review. 

The Disadvantaged Farmers Action Group initiated proceedings against the Department of Agriculture in late 2016. While six farmers from Cork, Kerry and Tipperary are named in the action, the group has compiled details from scores of other farmers who are in a similar position. They claim they were subjected to unfair procedures and penalties following a review of land area. 

Chairman of the Disadvantaged Farmers Action Group Dermot Kelleher said the action was going ahead and there is a lot of support for the case. In Glencar, Co Kerry he said the review resulted in 14 sheep farmers losing 100pc of their payments. 

“We are waiting for a date. All the paper work is done,” he remarked. “It is lodged in the High Court and the Department has appointed a firm of solicitors to deal with it,” said Mr Kelleher. 

He said the group has been closely watching a recent Supreme Court ruling which upheld a High Court finding in relation to fishermen who were fighting a move by the State to impose penalty points on their licences under Common Fisheries Policy. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court which had quashed an attempt to impose a penalty points system on the fishermen.

The 2014 regulations in question, which have since been changed, were found invalid on the grounds that they did not comply with fair procedures.  

Mr Kelleher, who is also the Munster Vice President and West Cork chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) believes the case has “big implications” for their legal challenge. “They were told the Department can’t bring arbitrary rules,” he remarked. 

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Mr Kelleher said Bantry-based solicitor Brian Harrington was taking their High Court case pro bono (for free) but there had been some expenses to pay, such as sending a barrister to Europe. The money “is not for legal fees” and is being held in the event that the case fails and costs have to be paid, he explained. 

“There’s just short of €100,000 in the kitty,” Mr Kelleher remarked. If the case concludes successfully for the group, he said, “we will have to ask the farmers what they want to do with it.”  

The Disadvantaged Farmers Action Group initiated proceedings against the Department of Agriculture in late 2016. While six farmers from Cork, Kerry and Tipperary are named in the action, the group has compiled details from scores of other farmers who are in a similar position. 


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