The Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney confirmed that the proposed EU fine of the Department of Agriculture remains a “live issue”.

Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister in recent days if the threat of a fine being imposed on the Department of Agriculture by the EU in relation to the single farm payment still exists and the progress with the discussion to date to resolve this issue.

The Minister stated that following a series of bi-lateral meetings between officials of the Department of Agriculture and EU officials, which failed to reconcile my principal contention – that the EU approach to the level of correction to be applied should be based on the assessed risk, rather than a flat rate calculation – my Department has availed of the option to refer the dossier to the Conciliation Board.

The Minister said: “The formal Irish position was lodged with the Conciliation Body on June 25. While a hearing of our case is scheduled for early December, given the complexities involved it is unlikely that there will be a resolution until mid-2015, at the earliest.”

The imposition of a €180 million fine on Ireland by the European Commission had been previously labelled by the Minister as unjustified following the Department of Agriculture received a letter on May 14 which informed it of a potential flat rate financial correction from the EU. The letter outlined that the Commission may impose on Ireland a fine most likely of 2% on some €9 billion in EU direct aid which we have received over the period 2008 to 2012. “The letter came as a complete surprise to me and was not justified on the bases the commission’s audits.