Limerick IFA and ICMSA’s reaction to ‘freak’ slurry spill

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Limerick County Council says the public water supply was not affected by last week's slurry spill near Doon. [Picture: Mike O'Riordan]
LIMERICK ICMSA and IFA say the slurry tank wall collapsing in Cooga, Doon on Tuesday night highlights the problems of calendar farming.

LIMERICK ICMSA and IFA say the slurry tank wall collapsing in Cooga, Doon on Tuesday night highlights the problems of calendar farming.

Farmers were not allowed to spread during the closed period in November and December when ground conditions were perfect for travelling. And now that January 15 has passed and farmers can spread slurry again they are not able to after all the heavy rain.

As Roger Keogh eloquently put it at a recent IFA meeting farmers would need a boat to spread it. So instead of farmers emptying the tanks in November and December it has built up and built up in slurry pits.

Chairman of Limerick ICMSA, Michael Lenihan, expressed sympathy with all parties affected by the recent incident and said that anything to do with this element of farming infrastructure was both expensive and complex.

Mr Lenihan observed that while the exact circumstances of what happened in Doon had yet to emerge, that the incident highlighted yet again the frustration and potential for problems that came with what he termed an “over-reliance” on calendar farming.

“We in ICMSA have for years repeatedly pointed out the problems associated with calendar farming and they have been made clearly evident yet again over the past few days since the closed period ended on January 15.

“The sodden ground conditions have prevented many farmers from spreading slurry or even getting tractors into the fields and yet we had two fantastic months of weather up to mid-December when the conditions were absolutely ideal for spreading slurry but farmers were forbidden because it is a so-called closed period.

“Farmers are frustrated beyond belief because the ground was dry and if slurry had been spread at that stage it would have greatly facilitated grass growth into spring. Calendar farming simply does not work. ICMSA has put forward constructive proposals to address this matter and we repeat our conviction that as part of the Nitrates negotiations currently underway with the EU Commission, the Government must seek changes on this matter,” said Mr Lenihan.

As unusual weather patterns become more frequent, and precisely at a time when more flexibility was required, it simply made no sense whatsoever to be designating dates and periods on a calendar with no reference to the practicalities and the opportunities that might arise, he said. Mr Lenihan said the reality of the situation doesn’t allow for this kind of “hard and fast” regulation and slurry storage periods are exactly like that. “They should take account of the weather and not simply be about ringing certain dates on a calendar,” he said.

Limerick IFA chairman, Aidan Gleeson, also expressed his sympathies and said he had been in contact with farmers on the ground in the locality in Doon.

“It was a genuine accident, it’s not a case of somebody who was being careless or anything like that it was just a catastrophic failure of a tank wall which couldn’t be predicted. Luckily there was no one seriously hurt and there is no pollution issue. It was a totally freak accident, the farmer was not at fault,” said Mr Gleeson.

“What neighbours were saying to me was if they could have emptied the tank in the suitable weather the incident wouldn’t have happened. It would have avoided the incident,” he added.

Mr Gleeson also called for the whole area of calendar farming to be addressed as it could avert incidents like this.

“But it was a one-off and thankfully the lady in the car wasn’t seriously hurt,” said Mr Gleeson.