The 18 farmers whose Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) lands were affected by the 2020 Shass landslide in Co Leitrim will be again granted force majeure by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue for this year.

The granting of force majeure will allow these lands to remain eligible to receive payment on the areas affected by the deposition of peat and debris during and after the 2020 landslide, as had been the case in 2020 and 2021.

The total area of farmland affected by the overspill has been assessed by the Department of Agriculture to have been 24.09ha, with 12ha of forestry belonging to seven landowners also affected.

The granting of force majeure comes as the farmers await details on an expected compensation scheme for the damage caused by the landslide, following on from a multi-agency group which was convened to establish the impact of the event on both farmers and the environment.

Force majeure

“Officials from the Department contacted each of the applicants affected by the landslide to assure them that payments would not be impacted. Force majeure was applied again in 2021,” stated Minister of State at the Department of Finance Sean Fleming.

Marian Harkin TD told the Irish Farmers Journal that written confirmation had been provided by Department officials stating that, as well as granting force majeure to 2022 BPS applications, the details of a compensation scheme “should be finalised shortly”.

“The Minister will ensure it will apply again in 2022 in respect of farm payments,” said Minister Fleming, who addressed the topic when it was raised in Dáil Éireann in the absence of Minister McConalogue.

Minister Fleming added that the multi-agency group had found that much of the lands affected were “untrafficable to both animals and machinery and are both unsuitable and unsafe for agricultural or farming use at present” as the peat deposited on farmland had a depth of up to 2m in places.

The Dáil heard that the landslide displaced some 160,000m³ of material from an upland blanket bog and adjoining forestry on Shass Mountain, Co Leitrim, after a period of heavy rain on 28 June 2020.

The liquefied debris was taken approximately 7km downstream of the site and deposited on farmland.

Much of the area that had been “destroyed” on the affected farms had been the better, greener ground where cattle could be kept or ewes lambed on otherwise marginal land, Michael Fitzmaurice TD told the Dáil, having seen the affected areas himself.

They have done great work. However, farmers in the area have seen no progress on agricultural issues

Deputy Fitzmaurice stated that farmers needed certainty from Minster McConalogue on the provision of a compensation scheme, similar to the one administered when areas of Donegal and Mayo had seen landslides affecting farmland.

“They have done great work. However, farmers in the area have seen no progress on agricultural issues,” Deputy Fitzmaurice said on the multi-agency group.

“With regard to the compensation of landowners, his Department does not have a contingency fund,” explained Minister Fleming, adding that, as such, any payment scheme would need approval from the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath.