Irish Farmers Association (IFA) presidential candidate Martin Stapleton has called on farmers to defy the new law which bans the burning of green waste on farms.

Stapleton argued that taking such action would be the most effective way to fight the bush-burning ban, effective from 30 November. He asked whether farmers were afraid of breaking the law.

The call was made at the seventh round of IFA presidential and deputy presidential debates in Athenry on Monday.

Stapleton was speaking in response to a question on the end of green waste burning put by Richard Rice of Oughterard, who asked if the IFA was going to “sit on our hands and allow them to finish it off” or if it was “going to fight to get it back”.

“We as farmers have a choice whether we ignore that law or not. That’s the fight we can make,” Stapleton, who is the IFA treasurer, stated.

“That’s what fighting here means. You cut, make a heap of it and you crack a match on a fine day with a bale of straw or whatever you want to light it up.

“How many farmers here are going to do it? That’s what fighting means here.”

Minister Hackett ‘veto’

Stapleton rounded on Green party Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who he claimed “seems to have a veto” on Department of Agriculture policy.

The legislation around burning green waste is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment.

However, Stapleton laid the blame firmly at Minister Hackett's door, claiming she “put in place the law around green waste burning” and made “many, many mistakes” in her time in office as a junior minister.

“If you got 1,000 farmers to crack a match on the same day, that’s a real statement. That’s what the fight is, because this decision is made by a minister who has been most unreasonable around farming practices,” Stapleton added.

He asked farmers “are we afraid to break the law if the law is unreasonable?”

IFA ‘not prepared’ for battle

Rival presidential candidate Francie Gorman of Co Laois told the crowd at the Athenry debate that he felt asking paying members of the IFA to break the law is unfair when the association itself is afraid to do so.

Gorman, who is the sitting south Leinster chair, criticised the speed with which the IFA takes protest action on farming issues, such as the green waste burning ban and the cut to the nitrates derogation.

The IFA is unwilling to go to battle on these issues, he claimed.

“100% I would be prepared to fight that, it’s nonsense. I have green waste at home that I burn as well,” Gorman commented.

“But to be fair, I don’t think it's fair to ask individual farmers to break the law and fight something their association that they pay levies and membership into isn’t prepared to do.

“So, we [IFA] have got to get back in there and do whatever we have to do to get delivery on issues like that.”

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