IFA ’emphatically rejects’ land designations – Cullinan

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that it has “emphatically rejected” land designations, and will tell the Minister of State for heritage Malcolm Noonan at an upcoming meeting that “restrictions are having a detrimental effect on rural areas”.

Tim Cullinan, the association’s president, said “any increase in designated land will be strongly resisted by farmers”.

“The Programme for Government has no mention of more designations and [we] will be holding the government to account on this,” Cullinan insisted.

He also claimed that the IFA had received commitments from previous ministers with responsibility for heritage – Josepha Madigan and Heather Humphreys – that there would be no more designations.

“In discussions with the National Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS] over the past two years on a new agreement on designated land, not once has the issue of additional designations been raised. Furthermore, any state land purchased by NPWS to increase national parks will not be accepted,” the IFA president said.

Meanwhile, Flor McCarthy, the IFA’s hill farming chairperson, called for farmers and landowners to be “properly compensated” where designations are imposed under EU directives on habitats or birds.

McCarthy also opposed suggestions of destocking sheep in hill areas, as it “seriously impacts on the livelihoods of farmers and will lead to further economic decline in areas which are already struggling”.

Current payment arrangements under locally-led or NPWS schemes are totally inadequate, as they don’t address the fundamental issue of loss of income and the devaluation of land values.

“We will be demanding a proper consultation on any projects that are taking place in Natura 2000 areas, such as the ‘LIFE’ nature project in blanket bog areas in the west and north west, and the rewetting of bogs as part of the Just Transition Programme on raised midland bogs,” McCarthy concluded.