Over 2,000 hill and commonage farmers have turned out today to march on the Taoiseach’s office in Castlebar in protest over the Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the new GLAS scheme.
The Hill Farmers for Action group took the decision to march following months of unrest between the group and the Department of Agriculture over the issue.
The Group which have called that protest a ‘march for fairness’ began at Mayo GAA rounds at McHale Park and are finishing up at Taoiseach Enda Kennys office.
Representatives of the Hill Farmers Group met with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney on Wednesday night, but it achieved very little, the farmers say.
They say there cannot be a collective agreement in the GLAS scheme, as it’s not needed and it’s not wanted, as spokesperson for the group said. They say that the GLAS application system will effectively restrict access to commonage farmers by imposing unnecessary hurdles.
The group recently held a meeting of almost 1,000 commonage farmers last week in Maam Cross, with speakers including Marian Harkin, Matt Carthy, Eamon O’Cuiv, Sean Kyne and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan on the night.
The group previously held an extensive picket outside the Taoiseach’s office in Castlebar some months ago and has also held a number of large public meetings over the issue.
The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said in recent weeks he has listened to the concerns of commonage farmers and has altered his proposals significantly to address them.
He said he listened very carefully to the concerns of commonage farmers and recognises that these concerns are real.
The Minister stated that over the course of the consultation process on the Rural Development Programme the Department have adapted and rebalanced our proposals for commonages quite significantly in the light of those concerns.