A leading agriculture solicitor has said he is concerned around the lack of funding for the proposed EU nature restoration law and that the same problems that occurred with land designations could be replicated again.
Solicitor James Staines was speaking at a meeting on the proposed law held by Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice, Marian Harkin and Michael McNamara in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, on Sunday.
“I’m concerned about the lack of funding that will be there to do it. I’m concerned about the unintended consequences, how it works around the edge for landowners around it, and given the way that designations took place, I’m concerned that those same problems will be replicated and will cause a lot of issues with farmers," he said.
He told the packed meeting that "some form of guarantee for funding is what is required".
He said that someone, at some stage, is going to ask about the law’s potential interference with property rights and the right to earn a living.
“You absolutely have these rights under the Irish Constitution, but they’re not absolute rights and the State is entitled to interfere with them. They do that already - planning restrictions, EPA licences and things like that.
“At the moment there is no automatic right to compensation for interfering with property rights. Also, under EU schemes that come in, there’s even less of an obligation for compensation for interference with your property rights.
“I have seen some horrendous circumstances where farmers in the Hen Harrier schemes - their land effectively has become worthless.
"Because they want to get out of farming, they can’t sell the land, there’s no one to transfer it on to, they can’t put it to forestry. The land has worthless value for them,” he said.
Furthermore, Staines said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has a very short period of time to gather a huge amount of scientific information.
“There’s extremely tight deadlines, there’s a need for a significant amount of scientific data collation including land use reviews, and the resources for implementing and monitoring the national restoration plan are currently not in place.
“At the moment, the current regulation does not envisage any more EU funding. It envisages funding from existing sources, such as CAP, it envisages State funding and it envisages private investment.
“Based on previous experience of dealing with schemes, funding tends to come in at the start and then drifts away,” he said.
He also questioned if there was capacity within the NPWS to carry out the necessary investigations to prepare the national plan required under the regulations.
After a constructive start, where farmers’ fears were outlined, the meeting became unruly and disruptive in the last 30 to 40 minutes of the three hour meeting, with one speaker from the floor marching up to the top table with a microphone where he proceeded to shout at MEP Colm Markey.
A number of other incendiary comments from other individuals from the floor were made at the meeting, including that the Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan should be thrown off the Cliffs of Moher and that climate change is a hoax.
Another speaker from the floor said that Ireland should leave the EU, which was met with applause.