Department remains tight lipped over land eligibility appeals update

The Department of Agriculture is remaining tight lipped over any possible implications the recent High Court judgement on an inspection appeals case could have.

Despite repeated questioning in the Dail this week, by Roscommon-South Leitrim Michael Fitzmaurice, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed repeatedly said he could not comment due to the on-going legal proceedings.

Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Agriculture what steps he will now undertake to ensure that “flawed inspection procedures are immediately changed to ensure that each applicant to the schemes will have their rights protected; the proposed changes and a timeline for their implementation”.

However, the Minister said the matter is the subject of on-going legal proceedings and therefore he could not comment.

That didn’t stop Fitzmaurice though. He then asked the Minister about his plans to address the penalties that were applied to farmers where no control report was provided. He also asked for an estimate on a county-by-county basis of the amount of cases around the country that may be affected by a ruling.

However, this too received the same response.

Next, Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for a statement on whether the farmers on commonages that were subjected to a review in 2010 and 2013 are entitled to have the decisions of the Department reviewed in the context of fair procedures arising from the ruling in a case.

Again the Minister said he could not comment.

Not deterred, Fitzmaurice pressed on with questions that are being raised because of the case and its judgement. He asked the Minister about plans to ensure the implementation of the Farmers Charter is adhered to Department officers on the ground, in view of the ruling in a case.

He also asked why the Department did not take remedial action on the provision of a control report when a matter was brought to his attention by many applicants to the schemes prior to the institution of a case and followed that up with a questions on control reports where he did get a response.

However, the Minister said he could not comment, nor could he comment on what resources, if any, he has made available to the appeals office to deal with appeals that may be reviewed in light of the ruling of the case.

He also said he could not comment on what steps he may be taking to address, what Fitzmaurice said was a “lack of understanding his officers have in the context of fair procedures when dealing with applicants to the schemes in view of a case”.

The Minister also said he could not discuss what legal advice, if any, he had received in respect of interpretation of the EU regulations prior to preparing the terms and conditions of the basic payment scheme.