Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív has been informed by the Minister for the Environment, in Parliamentary Reply of the 17th of November, 2015, that despite the instruction given in relation to the report regarding the re-organisation of the local authorities in Co. Galway, that he has not yet received this report. It is of urgent importance now that this report would be provided in the near further and that it would be published before any decision would be made on it or any recommendation made either in this regard.
Furthermore, I believe that no change should take place in relation to the local authorities in Galway, without a plebiscite of the people of Galway taking place. I once again call on the Minister to expedite this affair and bring certainly to the running of the local authorities in Galway.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív has condemned recent changes to the GLAS 2 Scheme, which will see payments to farmers significantly reduced. New restrictions will have a major impact on average payments, with many farmers predicting that they will only qualify for grants of around €3,000. Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “The roll out of this scheme has been extremely disappointing, with the number of applications well below the targets set out by Minister Coveney. The changes, which are being introduced as part of the second tranche of this programme will impact negatively on family farms and payments are expected to be substantially below the €5,000 average per farmer which has been budgeted for. In fact it’s thought that payments will only average around €3,000 under round 2 of the programme. “This is a major blow to farmers who rely on this payment to maintain their business. Not only will they see significant reductions in their payments, some farmers will no longer qualify for the payments as a result of the new restrictions being brought in. Farmers across the country are unhappy with the current GLAS scheme, which is evidenced in the low take up numbers. “The whole programme is in urgent need of a serious review to establish how it can be improved and made more attractive for farmers. Minister Coveney has a track record of underspending and I have serious concerns that the €1250m designated for the scheme will not be fully expended. It is essential that all funding earmarked for agriculture and rural schemes is utilised to improve the environment and provide financial assistance to hard pressed farmers”.
Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has welcomed the u-turn by Minister Simon Coveney about the rules governing the Knowledge Transfer Programme. The Minister had originally stated that farmers must attend the knowledge transfer sessions and would not be able to nominate someone to go in their place. However he has now reviewed this situation following staunch opposition from the farming community and has decided that a named nominee will now be able to attend in cases where the farmer is otherwise engaged. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív explained, “I am glad that Minister Coveney has seen the light and has decided to adopt a common sense approach to this issue. The Knowledge Transfer Programme is a valuable asset, however due the huge demands and workloads, farmers are not always available to attend every session and have sent nominees in their place in the past. The Minister’s lack of understanding of agricultural matters has been exposed in his pursuit to change the workings of this programme but I am glad that he has now finally seen sense. “This will allow spouses, siblings or children, who have an interest in or work on the farm, to part-take in the Knowledge Transfer sessions and bring back the information they learn to the farmer and farm workers”.
Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív has called on the Minister for State at the Department of Social Protection Kevin Humphreys to outline whether the Rural Social Scheme will continue to exist in its current form. Officials from the Department recently indicated that the programme could be amalgamated with the TÚS Scheme, the CE Scheme and the Gateway Scheme. Following questions from Deputy Ó Cuív in the Dáil earlier this month, Minister Humphreys said that while no plans are in place to amalgamate the Rural Social Scheme with others, however he conceded that this could change in line with rationalisation and resource commitments. Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Minster Humphreys needs to make it clear that he understands that the Rural Social Scheme is not an “activation scheme”. It is a support programme for low income farmers, who are willing to give a valuable contribution to their communities, in return for a modest payment. Its flexibility is conducive to farm work and has been key to the success of the scheme, providing long-term financial and social stability for recipients. “However, it would appear that the Minister and his Department do not fully understand to workings of the scheme, which they appear to categorise as a training programme for people to get back into full-time employment. Farmers who qualify for the Rural Social Scheme are already employed on their farms and are not seeking another full-time job. I am urging the Minister to protect this scheme and ensure that it remains as a stand-alone programme, which will continue to operate under the values on which it was founded. “The one good piece of news that came out from the Minister’s statement is that it would appear that it is very unlikely that any change will take place before the next general election. This will provide an opportunity for participants in the scheme to explain to General Election candidates the importance of maintaining the integrity of the programme in its current form”.
- October returns show Minister’s department €100m behind target –
- 75% increase in delay issuing direct payments is another hit on farmers –
Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has slammed Minister Simon Coveney for the huge drop off in expenditure in his Department this year. He has also hit out at the increased delays in CAP payments for farmers.
Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “The monthly exchequer returns for October show that gross expenditure in the Department of Agriculture is nearly €100 million behind target for the first 10 months of 2015. €75 million of this is current expenditure is as a result of the significant delays in direct CAP payments due to farmers under the basic payment scheme. The Capital Allocation is also running €20 million behind target for the first 10 months of year.
“The Minister’s failure to follow up on the applications processes for various schemes under his remit has resulted in €200m in delayed payments. Reports today reveal that over the past year there has been a 75% increase in outstanding basic payments to farmers. This is being compounded by the fact that there are 15,000 payments under the Areas of Natural Constraints scheme still outstanding.
“I am now calling on the Minister to expedite these payments to ensure that farmers can manage cash-flow and income volatility issues. Every day I and other colleagues receive calls from frustrated farmers, wondering when they will get their payments, informing us that they have not been told to-date of any difficulty with their payment. Many of them are under serious financial strain and are dependent on these payments to ensure that the bills are paid.
“Minister Coveney appears to have no understanding of the hardship that the delay in payments is causing. Time and again he has boasted of advancing payments. However, this is no good if large numbers of farmers receive no payment, due to minor queries on their applications.
“These latest figures highlight what I have being saying for a long time. There will likely to be a major underspend under the Rural Development Programme, which will become more apparent in the coming months. This untrustworthy government continues to leave farmers and rural communities behind. No spinning can untangle this”.