Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas
Áine Collins, TD for Cork North West was present in Ballydesmond on Friday with her colleague, Minister Simon Coveney when they announced a new scheme to support farmers who have had their land devalued due to their land being designated for the protection of the hen harrier.
“Through this announcement we have made a significant step forward for the affected farming families and their rural communities which have been affected. In total approximately €28 million a year will be made available; approximately €130 million over five years.”
“The question of the hen harrier is one that affects our part of the world in Cork North-West and in particular the areas of Rockchapel, Newmarket and Ballydesmond. The issue has lingered since the previous government was in office, when in 2007 a judgement found the hen harrier a protected species. Since then, 80,000 ha of land has been designated for the protection of the hen harrier. There are 3,854 families affected and the farmers involved can only farm their land to a certain capacity. They cannot build wind farms and they cannot develop forestry. As a consequence their land is of pretty much no value today.”
An organisation was set up, representing these farming families, Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) and their Chairman, Mr Liam O’Keeffe, welcomed the announcement as a very positive development and said that this new scheme will be very valuable to farmers who farm land designated for the protection of the hen harrier.
Mr O’Keeffe stated “There will be considerable work to be carried out by the Department in tandem with the farming community to make this a workable, accessible and fair scheme for all affected parties.
“The success of the scheme will obviously hinge on achieving a successful habitat for the hen harrier while simultaneously allowing the farmer to derive a viable income from the designated land which is being farmed. The announcement in relation to forestry is particularly welcome. We at IFDL advocate that an appeal system, if put in place, would provide a workable solution to the more severe cases affected by the ban on afforestation,” concluded Mr O’Keeffe.