The European Parliament Petitions Committee has requested that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine review the case of a Co. Clare farming couple who were refused cattle identity tags and suffered financially as a result.

Sean Kelly, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, has confirmed that Tom and Mary Clair’s case – the owners of the famous quad calves born last year – will also be referred to the parliament’s agriculture committee for further assessment.

The decision was taken following today’s presentation – by Kelly and Tom Clair – at a hearing in Brussels.

Kelly – who has assisted the couple from Lahinch for a number of years – underlined that the farmers had “suffered enormously” as a result of the situation.

The case dates back to March 2001, when Mary and Tom Clair applied to Mullinahone Co-op for tags.

However, it is understood that the District Veterinary Office of the Department of Agriculture downsized the order, because the applicants had sufficient unused tags from the previous year.

“Unfortunately, these unused tags had been accidentally burned,” said Kelly.

“The refusal of the authorities to provide cattle identity tags left some of their animals untagged and unregistered.

Due to the absence of tags, they were unable to sell their animals and did not have enough shelter for them on their farms.

“In addition, 2000, 2001 and 2002 were reference years for calculating eligibility for EU farm schemes. Mr. and Mrs. Clair were disadvantaged due to not being able to register all their animals.

“Their payments were subsequently lower than the real numbers on their farm should have allowed,” Kelly said in Brussels today.

In response, a European Commission spokesperson told the hearing that member states administer the CAP budget and, therefore, evaluate each individual case in accordance with EU laws.

‘Administration problem’

However, it was acknowledged that the Clair’s case “seems to fall under an administrative problem”.

The spokesperson added that the European Commission “regrets the situation” and suggested that the petitions committee should appeal to the national authorities.

In welcoming the outcome, Kelly thanked the commission and other MEPs for their support:

The petitions committee has decided to write to the Department of Agriculture to ask them to review the case of Tom and Mary Clair to see if there is some flexibility to help them and give them their entitlements.

“The petition is also being referred to the Committee on Agriculture of the European Parliament to examine the case.

“The petitioners are seeking compensation from the Irish State and are seeking the farm premium rights allegedly withheld from them.

“They received a great deal of support at the parliament today and the committee on petitions will revisit the case on receipt of a response from the department. We are hopeful that some solution could be found,” Kelly concluded.