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The Taoiseach has undertaken to raise changes to the Burren Programme with the Agriculture Minister.

Taoiseach intervenes positively in Burren scheme controversy


TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has intervened in the controversy over the ending of a farming scheme designed to protect the world-famous ecosystem of the Burren.

The matter was raised with by Deputy Michael McNamara who told him that farmers participating in the Burren Programme and on the Slieve Aughtys would lose out in the new ACRES scheme. In the Dáil, the Independent TD called on the Taoiseach to review plans to subsume the programme into ACRES Burren Aran. 

“The new ACRES scheme will disadvantage the farmers in that [Burren] scheme as it were the farmers on the Slieve Aughtys who are in the Hen Harrier area. The standard they will have to reach is lower, but they’ll get less money.”

Responding, the Taoiseach said farmers should not suffer a loss of income due to the new ACRES scheme. “I will take that up with the Minister of Agriculture, because we want more and more people engaged in environmental friendly farming. I think it’s a fabulous scheme in the Burren. And we need to have more of those schemes, and farmers need … to have income streams that encourages and incentivise restoration of biodiversity, protection of biodiversity.”

Since the ending of the Burren Programme came to light, representatives across Clare have pledged to protect it. The programme has supported hundreds of farmers to deliver million of euros worth of conservation measures, to-date. It has also contributed €23 million to the local economy. 

Clare’s Fine Gael TD expressed confidence that Minister McConalogue will agree to a meeting with representatives of Burren IFA. Deputy Joe Carey said:  “It’s extremely important that Minister McConalogue engages with Burren IFA members and with Dr Brendan Dunford without delay. I have asked Minister McConalogue to meet with this group and expect this to happen.” Deputy Carey has organised a meeting between Burren IFA members and Minister Simon Coveney. 

Senator Róisín Garvey told The Champion she has met both Michael Davoren of Burren IFA and Dr Brendan Dunford. “I then raised the farmers concerns with Minister McConalogue directly in person, with his Department officials and with super junior minister Pippa Hackett. I hope for a positive outcome from current talks happening on the issue.”

Last weekend, Senator Timmy Dooley arranged a meeting with MEP Billy Kelleher and up to 30 farmers in the Burren. He said he has spoken to Minister McConalogue and will “fight tooth and nail” over the ACRES changes, which will also affect Hen Harrier protection payments in East Clare. “Compensation has to be continued as long as the designation is in place,” he said. 

Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne also backed calls to retain the programme. “The Burren Programme has been a shining example of what can be done when a community comes together to take control of their own destiny, with a focus on sustainable farming,” she said, adding that she has written to Minister McConalogue. 

Deputy Cathal Crowe said he and Councillor Joe Killeen met Burren farmers and relayed their concerns directly to Minister McConalogue. “The existing Burren Programme has been very successful and exceeded all expected outcomes so I cant fathom why there would be any move to deviate from it now,” he said.

“A change from the current Burren Programme could result in farmers scaling back their level of input… I have asked Minister McConnalogue to meet with the farmers and will be following up on the matter again this week.”

The matter has also been raised by Senator Martin Conway, who said Minister McConalogue needed to “step up” and support farmers. “It makes no sense whatsoever that farmers and indeed, the environment, would be the losers in the new ACRES scheme.” 

At the time of publication, the Department had not responded to a requests for comment. 

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