DEPUTY Patrick O’Donovan said the announcement of the hen harrier scheme is the “first step in righting a wrong”.
He welcomed news that farmers’ lands that have been designated as special areas of conservation for the protection of the hen harrier, are to be accommodated under the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme (LLAES).
West Limerick is one of the most affected parts of the country. There is also a small pocket in north east Limerick.
If all those farmers with hen harrier land applied, this would amount to more than €23m per annum for hen harrier actions alone in GLAS and GLAS plus. The previous Farmland Birds Scheme was paying out around €3.5m per annum for all farmland birds. Mr O’Donovan said the only disappointing thing is the length of time that it has taken to get recognition for these farmers.
“Maybe if myself and Michael Creed hadn’t been the only political voices pursuing this in the Oireachtas the issue might have been solved a lot sooner,” said Mr O’Donovan.
“The single biggest thing is the recognition from the State of the plight of these landowners. Since I first entered the Dáil in 2011 I have been working with farmers in Limerick and elsewhere who had their farming practices restricted because of designation for hen harrier habitat protection.
“I believe that the announcement by Minister Simon Coveney to put a package in place to address the needs of these farmers is the right thing to do and is something that I have used every possible opportunity as a member of Dáil Éireann to fight for,” added Mr O’Donovan.
The scheme will be included in an amendment to Ireland’s Rural Development Programme which is to be lodged with the EU Commission in the spring. Consultation is currently underway and he encourages all those affected by this issue to participate.
Mayor Liam Galvin, who has also raised this issue for years including at a meeting in Brussels, said he hoped the programme would include all farmers with designated land.
“I want to see all meadowing in designated areas included,” said Mayor Galvin, who wished to praise the Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL). They were formed to unite farmers and landowners in regaining the value of designated land and to ensure farmers can generate a reasonable income from designated lands. The aim of the IFDL was to restore the value of designated lands to the same value as neighbouring non-designated lands and that of similar type land elsewhere, and an equal payment on every designated hectare to be paid to landowners.
“I have attended many meetings and know the tireless work that members in west Limerick put into this,” said Mayor Galvin.
Former cathaoirleach, John Sheahan has also been a big supporter of affected farmers.