West Cork cattle buffer zone dispute

ICSA Ireland and the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) have dismissed calls this afternoon to establish buffer zones to exclude cattle from streams, rivers and lakes across Ireland, calling it “unrealistic” and “unworkable”.

The call for 10-meter buffer zones came from Friends of the Irish Environment today after repeated closures this summer of West Cork beaches.

Cork County Council last week placed two prohibition orders on Tragumna beach and Kilcrohane pier as its tests, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, showed its water had elevated levels of E.coli. The orders were subsequently lifted this week, according to the council this afternoon.

In a statement released after the latest closures were announced, the West Cork-based group said: “Climate change suggests that we will be liable to more flooding events in the coming years, exacerbating the problem of faecal contamination of not only our best beaches but of Ireland’s reputation as a safe and clean holiday destination.”

Friends of the Environment has now called for a 10-m buffer zone. “Simon Coveney is both Minister for Agriculture and TD for the area. He supports farmers in their role as guardians of the countryside. He must also ensure they accept their responsibility as guardians of our water quality,” the group added in a statement.

ICSA Ireland has strongly criticised this suggestion from Friends of the Environment, saying it could cost in the region of €3.5bn to implement.

“The question is how can this be realistically funded?  It is plain to see that this is a completely unrealistic and unworkable proposal.  There would be a far better return from upgrading sewage treatment infrastructure,” said rural development chairman John Barron in a statement.

Speaking to AgriLand, IFA’s environment and rural affairs Harold Kingston said various graduated buffer strips already exist for fertiliser use alongside rivers and lakes under the nitrate regulations.

“Fenced buffers show mixed levels of effectiveness, using a blunt instrument of one size fits all doesn’t work. The 10m paid buffer introduced in Denmark is being questioned by farmers, environmentalists, scientists and the taxpayer.”

Kinsgton insisted investment in on-farm infrastructure, slurry storage, housing, farm yard management and so on, of €3bn and ongoing investment in wastewater treatment plants needs to be recognised for its role in water-quality protection.

AgriLand understands the high levels of e-coli that forced prohibition orders on the West Cost areas of Tragumna beach and Kilcrohane pier  were due to ‘failures of infrastructure’. Cork County Council is currently investigating.

Image a generic picture of a beach/Shutterstock