Published: Thu, 05 November 2015
Seán Kelly MEP has welcomed new measures to be introduced to benefit some 4,000 Irish landowners affected by EU Hen Harrier conservation rules.
“I welcome the recent statement by Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, that work on the forestry aspects of the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan could be accelerated.
“In addition to priority access for farmers with Hen Harrier land under the GLAS (Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme), whereby those farmers could earn up to €7,000 per annum through a combination of GLAS and GLAS plus, Minister Coveney has indicated that more measures will be forthcoming via the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme (LLAES) to cater for those farmers who are farming large tracts of Hen Harrier Land,” MEP Kelly said.
Mr Kelly, who has lobbied intensively on this issue, brought a delegation of the Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) group and Patrick O’ Donovan TD to meet with European Commission officials in Brussels last year on the issue.
“Landowners affected were unfairly treated and I have always maintained that some way had to be found to compensate them in that respect,” the Ireland South MEP explained.
“Farmers and landowners, mostly in Counties Limerick, Clare, Kerry, Tipperary, Monaghan and Laois, have suffered land de-valuation and encountered serious difficulties in carrying out agricultural work on their land due to the European Union’s Birds Directive which offers conservation protection through the Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas Designation.
“The designation was introduced to halt the declining population of Hen Harriers, however, it led to many devaluations of land,” Mr Kelly said.
As a result of Mr Kelly’s meeting with the Commission, it was clarified that rural development allows member states to compensate farmers for costs and income loss resulting from the disadvantages and restrictions related to the implementation of Birds and Habitats Directives and going beyond the good agricultural and environmental conditions and minimum agricultural activities set in the first pillar of the CAP.
In light of this information, Mr Kelly called for “an immediate, co-ordinated approach across Government departments to ensure that farmers are compensated for their financial loss due to their lands being designated a Special Protection Area for the Hen Harrier”.