Fencing in restricted areas a thorny issue for farmers
Sheep farmers are up in arms as their efforts to fence their land is blocked by environmentalists vowing to 'keep Ireland open'.
Wesley Morrison (pictured below) from Louisburgh in west Mayo is one farmer who has found himself on the front line in this conflict. He inherited land from his granduncle in 2010 and proceeded to fence a 534m border in 2011.
As the land was part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), he first asked Mayo County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) whether he could proceed, and received the green light to go ahead.
During the job he took every precaution, including using mats for all machinery, and installing a stile for access, as requested by the council. On completion, a neighbouring farmer took a legal action, but this was settled in February 2013. However, later that year the same neighbour queried the status of the fence with the council, following which the council issued a 'section 5 declaration' confirming that the fence was exempt for planning permission.
This was appealed by the neighbour to Bord Pleanala, who turned over the council's decision that planning permission was not required. At this point, Mr Morrison reapplied to the council for planning retention, and despite an assessment concluding that it wouldn't have any adverse effects on the environment, the council refused the application for planning permission.
Mr Morrison now had to appeal this decision to Bord Pleanala at which point An Taisce, Keep Ireland Open and the neighbouring landowner countered with objections.
The planning authority ruled against the young farmer and in February he received an enforcement notice from Mayo council threatening fines of up to €12m and imprisonment if convicted for failing to remove the fence.
Disheartened with his efforts to make a living from the home farm, Mr Morrison emigrated.