Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Minister says Department is not ‘specifically’ seeking affidavits from farmers over wild fires

Blaze alert: A fire rages out of control near the iconic Gougane Barra church in Co Cork last year Photo: John Delea
Blaze alert: A fire rages out of control near the iconic Gougane Barra church in Co Cork last year Photo: John Delea
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said his Department is not specifically seeking affidavits from farmers who have had their single farm payments held up due to mountain fires.

However, he did say that should an affidavit be submitted, it will be considered accordingly.

Almost 100 'illegal' wild fires have been notified to the European Commission by Irish Wildlife Trust.

The IWT presented to the EC a table of 97 wild fires between the March 24 and May 22, 2017 from 19 counties in the republic (Kerry, Cork, Mayo, Galway, Waterford, Wicklow, Donegal, Louth, Carlow, Limerick, Wexford, Dublin, Tipperary, Sligo, Roscommon, Kildare, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim) which they deem illegal.

It says 39 of these (40%) were within sites designated under the Natura 2000 network (Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas under the EU’s Habitats/Birds Directive).

Where land has been burned between the period of 1 March and 31 August of any given year, it is not eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

Nasa satellite picture shows smoke from a huge gorse fire in Co Galway in 2017
Nasa satellite picture shows smoke from a huge gorse fire in Co Galway in 2017

Responding to questioning from Roscommon – East Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice this week the Minster said his Department actively investigates incidents of illegal burning using satellite imagery.  

“Applicants who do not remove ineligible features, such as land burned during the period 1 March to 31 August, from their BPS applications, may have an over claim(s).

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“Such over claims have occurred in relation to a number of 2017 BPS applicants who have declared burnt land.    

“These BPS applicants have been written to detailing the current position in relation to their applications and the options available to them, including the right to seek a review.

“Those seeking a review have been advised to submit any documentation that they deem relevant which will then be reviewed by my Department,” he said.

Calls have been made for fair judgement in cases where farmers’ BPS payments are being held back as a result of their lands being deemed to have been burned.

IFA National Hill Committee Chairman Pat Dunne has said unless the Department of Agriculture can prove who is responsible for land being burned, hill farmers should not be penalised.

“ There must be due process that allows farmers to maintain their payments where fires damaged their land through no fault of their own.

“Unless such a process is put in place, farmers with burned land are being unfairly victimised and have no way to achieve a fair assessment of their situation.”


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