Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Michael Colreavy TD has called on the Department of Agriculture to urgently tackle the crisis arising from the recent forest and commonage fires. He said the fires and the damage caused will have a catastrophic effect on many already hard-pressed farmers in disadvantaged areas, and that much more damage would have been caused but for the heroic work of fire fighters, civil defence and local communities.
Deputy Colreavy said: “The Minister must examine the extent to which state regulation has contributed to this problem in that forced destocking on commonage in 1998 has resulted in grass and heather growing out of control in these areas; providing a ready and volatile body of fuel for disastrous fires. What we have witnessed was fires literally waiting to happen due to EU and Government dictate.”
“It is time the Minister and Departmental officials listened to the real curators of the land – the farmers who for generations have worked and preserved the integrity of the countryside. The irrational destocking decision must be reversed before we add more fuel for future countryside fires”
Deputy Colreavy also asked the Minister to ensure that all outstanding monies due to small farmers are paid immediately. “It is scandalous that farmers owed thousands of euro from Department of Agriculture are being fobbed off by Departmental officials using the excuse that the computer systems are not working. Many of these farmers are on the brink of financial ruin; they cannot wait any longer for what is rightfully theirs. I wonder how the Minister or Departmental staff explaining the delays would feel if their wages were to be delayed by months on end. It would be totally unacceptable for staff; it is equally unacceptable for farmers” concluded Deputy Colreavy. ENDS