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Farmers facing penalties for fire ‘they had no hand, act or part in’

The Irish Beef & Lamb Association (IBLA) has claimed that farmers with lands adjoining Killarney National Park have received penalties following a wildfire earlier this year. A spokesperson shares the group’s views.

We call on Minister McConalogue to intervene in what is now being called the greatest injustice to be carried out by his department on the farming community in Kerry.

As a result of a wildfire, which took place in Killarney National Park in April 2021, which, in turn, spread out to surrounding farmlands, farmers with lands adjoining the National Park have received BPS penalty sanctions from the DAFM.

The penalty sanctions are for burned portions of land on each of their respective holdings.

The DAFM has already in place, a policy of penalizing farmers for burning lands outside of the prescribed burning timeframe from March 1st – August 31st.

The farmers affected have maintained, nurtured and kept their holdings adjacent to Killarney National park in pristine order.

In the spring of this year, Garda reports stated that the wildfire had started naturally with no evidence of criminality.

DAFM chooses to penalise farmers 

Yet, the DAFM has now chosen to penalise farmers, who are in the unfortunate position of farming lands adjacent to the national park, for the wildfire incident.

These farmers are primary producers, an essential workforce trying to make out a living on some of the most challenging landscapes on the island of Ireland.

This heavy-handed approach is akin to penalising these farmers for their neighbours having a fire. The National Park is state-owned, and in its failure to have adequate fire breaks at the boundaries of lands owned by private citizens, the full burden of responsibility lies with the state.

If the DAFM wishes to claw back money from anybody, we suggest that the DAFM take the most sensible and practical approach and recoup this money from those who have responsibility over the national park and with state responsibility.

The state cannot wash its hands of responsibility on one side and become judge, jury and executioner on the other side, while the primary producer becomes the meat in the sandwich.

Minister McConalogue must seek compensation for these farmers from his government colleague, Minister Patrick O’Donovan.

This injustice is another shining example of overarching powers without an independent appeals body or a proper structure to have a fair hearing.

Force majeure

The terms of force majeure for DAFM schemes such as the BPS must be revised immediately to protect and not discriminate unnecessarily against innocent parties.

We call on both ministers to engage with the farmers on the ground and reassure them that for this Christmas, their income will not be affected because of a fire that they had no hand, act or part in.

These farmers have families and businesses and bills to pay.

It is not good enough that at a stroke of a pen, that farmers carry the can and the cost for an incident that they have no responsibility for. It is beyond bizarre.

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