Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy has said that a response from the European Commission regarding farmers whose holdings have been hit by natural disaster “confirms that the Department of Agriculture may not have to implement penalties”.

The party spokesperson on agriculture said that farmers, such as those with land surrounding Lough Funshinagh in Roscommon and surrounding Killarney National Park, “fear that they may be penalised on their BPS payments as a result of flood and fire for which they bear no responsibility”.  

Ensure farmers receive BPS payments in full

“Minister Charlie McConalogue previously stated that there was very little he could do,” the deputy said.

“This proposition always appeared to be ludicrous. I have always advocated that the Minister for Agriculture should use the full breadth of his discretion to avoid fining farming families who have already borne the brunt of natural disaster entirely outside of their control.

“I have engaged with both the Department of Agriculture and the European Commission directly on this matter to seek a resolution – this is not about compensation or emergency provision; it’s about not imposing a fine.

“These fines exist for legitimate reasons such as to prevent burning out of season and protect the environment.

“They aren’t intended to kick a person in the teeth while they’re already suffering due to a natural disaster.”

The deputy said he was “not surprised to learn that the European Commission, in response to my colleague Chris MacManus MEP, has confirmed that provision exists for situations that arise from force majeure”.

He said the minister “urgently needs to make a statement to clarify if he will accept these circumstances as force majeure, and ensure that these farmers are paid their basic payment in full, or if not, his justification for such”.

Minister McConalogue this week (Monday, October 18) announced the commencement of advance payments under the 2021 BPS, including Greening.