Farmers will accept measures which help to restore nature, such as rewetting farm peatland, if the government provide incomes to “a new generation of farmers, foresters and people to look after the natural world”.
That is the view of Minister Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party, who made the remark during a heated exchange in Dáil Éireann, with deputy Michael Fitzmaurice.
The Roscommon-Galway-based representative asked the minister if he would oppose the proposed EU regulation on land and peat restoration with reference to the biodiversity and climate strategy as part of the European Union Council of Ministers.
He warned the minister that the “consequences for Irish farming will be detrimental if this regulation is left in its present form”.
In response, Ryan said the EU nature restoration law, as proposed, seeks to repair European habitats that are in “poor condition and bring back nature to all ecosystems”.
He stated that the aim is for nature restoration measures to apply to a proportion of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and to eventually extend these measures to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.
Ryan remarked: “To answer, if I can, the question as to whether I will oppose the proposed Union regulation, I met the Commissioner, Mr. Sinkevičius, when I visited Brussels the week before last, and we discussed this very issue.”
“I am supportive of what he and the Commission are looking to do. I believe it will be to the benefit of nature restoration in Ireland but also to the development of rural Ireland and to our cities.”
“Part of the plan and the proposals is that we green our cities as well as our country areas. I said to Commissioner Sinkevičius that I would be supportive of his work.”
The minister added that he believes this law and the measures would help deliver a “real, long-term” benefit for people.
He said that it is in all of our interests to “stop the destruction of the natural world,” which he claims has occurred over the past 50-60 years.
Fitzmaurice argued that if the minister supports the regulation in its present form, “he will be a traitor to people in rural Ireland”.
He said the regulation would impact people with land containing peaty soils, but “we in rural Ireland will stand against this and fight it”.
“No EU diktat and no government minister in Dublin will dedicate our private property rights, decide how we farm our land or take us off land that we have drained, looked again and reared families on, down through the years,” he stressed to Ryan.
Ryan then highlighted that “ignoring the biodiversity crisis and the destruction and loss of our national world serves no one’s interests”.
He believes we must “look forward, restore nature and ensure that we maintain our prosperity in that manner”, and there will be “a far more secure, a far more profitable and a far more prosperous future” as a result.
“We have to work to find a mechanism whereby we can do this in a way that guarantees the future of the family farm, and that is what we will work towards with the European Union,” he told Fitzmaurice.
Fitzmaurice then declared that “this regulation will not be accepted, whoever is in government”.
He said the regulation would, from the top of Donegal to the bottom of Kerry, and out as far as Cork and the midlands, destroy family farms if, by 2050 if, the plan is that the government will rewet the ground that these farmers have “spent years trying to farm all their life”.