Department fails to reclaim €25,000 from flood-hit farmer

The Office of the Ombudsman received a complaint from a farmer after the Department of Agriculture sought to recover a grant of over €25,000 from him following flooding of his land.

The farmer in Kerry, had received a grant under the Department’s Afforestation Scheme to establish a forest on his land.

However, following severe flooding in 2009, the forest had been destroyed.

The Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, decided that the Department had acted unfairly in seeking recovery of the money.

“Where people apply for and receive grants in good faith, they should not be reclaimed.”

This is particularly so in this case where the farmer lost his crop through no fault of his own and was hit with the double blow of a bill from the Department.

“I’m glad we were able to put things right.”

According to the Ombudsman, the Department maintained that the man knew that his land was prone to flooding when he made the application for the grant in 2004.

The Department said that one of the reasons it demanded repayment was that the trees had been removed by the man from the land.

It also maintained that the man was partially responsible for damage to the forest.

However, the Ombudsman discovered that the Department had inspected the man’s land and had been made aware that the land may be prone to flooding prior to granting the man’s application.

In addition, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the Department’s definition of force majeure applied in this particular case and therefore, the man was not responsible for the destruction of the forest.

The Department agreed to review its decision and decided not to recover the amount of €25,000.