Despite the unnecessarily obdurate attitude of the Department of Agriculture in dealing with hill farmers over commonage issues, it would be counterproductive if hill farmers were to block access to the Great Western Greenway.

This was stated by Independent MEP Marian Harkin when she suggested that Minister Coveney’s statement that he retained an open mind on how the commonage issue would be dealt with in the context of access to the new GLAS scheme indicated that resolution to current problems was possible.

She said: “I was very hopeful that this problem was being resolved that that the reasonable case put forward by the commonage farmers was being accepted. Accordingly I deferred a meeting I had organised for representatives of the commonage farmers with the European Commission to obtain clarification on regulations governing and participation in relevant schemes under the reformed CAP.

“In view of the regulations governing the equivalent to Ireland’s GLAS scheme in Wales it is apparent that any measures which secure overall EU objectives should be acceptable. If Minister Coveney, as stated, has an open mind in relation to the regulation governing commonage it is obvious that he can immediately bring forward measures which, like in Wales, will meet the needs of farmers and the environment.

In order to obtain a solution to this problem at the earliest it would not be, in my view, productive to engage in any blocking measures such as denying access to the valuable tourism asset Great West Greenway.