DEAR EDITOR: I am writing this letter with a heavy heart, compelled by the dire circumstances surrounding the nature restoration law.

As a tenth-generation hill farmer and third-generation farmer on our cherished land, which we tend to in a traditional style in harmony with nature every single day, it pains me to witness politicians’ audacity in proclaiming the proposed nature restoration law as beneficial for my farm.

Our Government officials congratulate themselves on the amendments made to reduce the requirements for rewetting drained farmland, and rightfully so. However, what they fail to disclose is the treacherous betrayal of hill farmers during the negotiations in the Council of Ministers’ position.

Farmland boasting Annex 1 habitats, such as dry heath, wet heath, sandy banks, machair grasslands and molinia meadows, is addressed under Article 4, where these lands are merely referred to as “habitats” without any mention of their agricultural significance.

Annex 1 habitats encompass lands that are not currently designated. Legal advice has also confirmed that planning permissions may have to consider in certain circumstances their impact on lands covered by the proposed nature restoration law.

Article 4 grants the State the power to impose upon my hill farm the reversion to some utopian state, reaching back as far as 70 or even 200 years ago.

You would assume that farmers would be compensated for such a draconian law imposed upon their lands, but instead, Minister Eamon Ryan, with the support of Government parties, has cunningly negotiated a change in Article 11, 9(a), replacing the term “shall” with “may”... “take into account the diversity of situations in various regions related to social, economic, and cultural requirements” when preparing the national restoration plan. This eliminates any obligation on the State’s part to bear the costs.

Let there be no mistake; our hill farms are first and foremost agricultural ecosystems, and habitats second.

To Minister Eamon Ryan, Minister McConalogue, Minister Malcolm Noonan, all our Government TDs, and MEPs, we demand the following amendments:

  • Change the title of Article 9 to read “Restoration of agricultural ecosystems, including high nature value farmland”.
  • Add a footnote to Article 4 stating that “high nature value farmland should be addressed in Article 9”.
  • Revise Article 11, 9(a) to reinstate the term “shall” instead of “may”.
  • I implore all hill farmers to reach out to their respective politicians and make it resoundingly clear that we will not stand idly by while this law passes in its current form.

    We, as hill farmers, are committed to safeguarding and enhancing our agricultural ecosystems, but we will not be deceived by politicians who lie to our faces while stealing away our children’s future.