The number of applications for appeals of land eligibility penalties received to date by the department stands at 4,800, according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
Responding to a parliamentary question this week, the minister said: “As part of the appeal, we send out an inspector to physically look at the land to make sure there is nothing awry and the number of such review applications sent for ground verification is 523. The number of applications accepted, or the number of successful appeals, is 160. The number rejected to date is 340.”
The minister also outlined the number of appeals received to date by the recently announced Land Parcel Identification System appeals committee is 15 thus far. This committee, which is chaired by Padraig Gibbons, gives another outlet to farmers who are concerned at the results they got from the department.
The minister highlighted that these appeals figures are ongoing and will alter as more cases are processed.
He also said: “The majority of farmers do not have an issue here, but for those who do, we will try to work with them through two appeals systems. If penalties are imposed and retrospective payments are to be made, we will work with farmers case by case to ensure we are acting reasonably with them.
“This is not an easy issue to resolve and the idea that we refuse to do what we need to do will have a much more severe consequence for agriculture than doing what we are doing at the moment. In other words, commission auditors will determine the amount of money that was spent that should not have been spent and they will fine the country accordingly, which will be a very big figure indeed,” he noted.
The minister confirmed that an audit team from the European Commission is coming to Ireland in the second week of next month.
“They will spend one week looking at how we are dealing with the issues.”
“It is not possible to deviate from the provisions of these schemes. If an applicant over-declared his or her land by including ineligible features or ineligible areas in the application form, the provisions of the regulations must be respected in the processing of each application and in the calculation of deductions and penalties,” he added.