CONCERNED farmers have reached the halfway mark in their quest to raise €100,000 to mount a legal challenge against what they consider excessive single farm payment (SFP) penalties. The money was collected in Cork and Kerry alone over the last eight weeks.
At an ICSA meeting in Athlone on Friday night last, the organisation’s West Cork chairman, Dermot Kelleher from Inchigeela, was amongst those who shared the top table with three MEPs, Marian Harkin, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Mairead McGuinness. A number of TDs also attended the meeting
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch said that the LPIS review process was completely unfair: ‘When over 10,000 people appeal the outcome of any regulatory or legislative process, it is clear that something is badly wrong,’ he asserted.
He added that the appeals process had taken far too long: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied. Many of the farmers who appealed penalties applied to their 2013 single payment have only seen the ground inspections carried out in the first three months of 2015 and even yet, there are outstanding cases.
‘In addition, farmers who have been fully or partially successful in appealing overclaims are still waiting to receive the money wrongly withheld,’ he added.
There were repeated complaints at the meeting that farmers cannot be expected to apply for a scheme where there is such uncertainty about land eligibility and at the same time risk huge penalties.
West Cork chairman Dermot Kelleher outlined the frustrations of farmers in the south west, where he claimed that the LPIS review has been ‘particularly savage’. He told farmers about the possible legal challenge against what farmers saw as a totally unfair and unjust process.
Mr Kelleher said that a group, describing itself as the Disadvantaged Farmers’ group, was actively seeking financial support for a legal challenge to unfair penalties, He outlined particularly unfair cases where there seemed to be several different and contradictory views from official sources at Department and EU level regarding the percentage eligibility of mountain type land held by farmers in West Cork and Kerry.
The problem of the penalties received huge empathy. The meeting agreed that these ‘unjust penalties’ will have a serious effect on people living in rural communities.
The meeting was shown that the further west you go in Ireland, the more the penalties are applied, and they are ‘totally unjust and subjective’. Meetings are also being arranged in Roscommon, Mayo, Limerick, Clare and Longford, amongst other places, to discuss the penalties mainly caused by disputed land eligibility issues.
The group taking the challenge, which was initiated by the West Cork Communities Alliance and the ICSA, has started a ‘go fund me’ link and people now have an option to support rural communities and rural families in their challenge for justice. The link is www.gofundme.com/po5t6c