The Oireachtas Agriculture Committee meeting with officials from the dept of agriculture today was a very disappointing affair. In spite of all the proposals made by stakeholders, the only hint at movement was in relation to the timeline for completion of commonage management plans. Although even in respect of this no firm details of any change were given.
Deputies O Cuiv and Kyne did their best to extract answers from the officials on how they hope to solve the many challenges that will be faced in progressing the commonage issue. The replies were far from satisfactory. One official highlighted the dangers that would be faced by Ireland if we persisted with maintaining the statue quo, no one will argue with him on that, but his colleagues handling of the issues connected with Glas were very unsatisfactory. It was wearisome to listen to the same tired old lines about the present proposals being arrived at after extensive consultations being trotted out again and again.
As I said earlier the officials were at pains to point out the risk that Ireland faces of a financial correction if the levels of activity on commonages do not increase. Unfortunately, I fear that the Dept. of Agriculture proposals increases rather than reduces the risk of such a correction. It was stressed that a credible plan would buy sufficient time to address the issue. If a credible plan is what is needed then I think we are all in big trouble. The window of opportunity that exists to address the commonage issue is about to be wasted and the consequences of this will be serious.
I am certain that the small number of interested and experienced planners will continue to work with farmers and will try and resolve issues on as many commonages as they can. However any successes will be in spite of, rather than because of the Dept. of Agriculture. The Depts. failure to adopt a leadership role in this process is placing the entire project in jeopardy and is a sad indictment of public administration in this country.
For this reason it is more important than ever that farmers and planners work together, if that means working within a poorly thought out scheme then we will have to do it. Together we will have to develop the systems needed to secure the future of farming on commonages. We cannot let a failure of this process be pinned on us. We cannot let the last blow be a self inflicted one. This is not a satisfactory outcome but it is the only realistic one left. I suggest that farming leaders and advisors in the main commonage counties should meet and seek to develop their own systems for co-ordinating a commonage planning process at a regional level. This should have a particular focus on how the larger commonages and more difficult sites can be dealt with.
The first training course for farm advisors starts next week, I assume the final details will be made public then. Let's hope we missed something today.
The full transcript of todays hearing will be available in a few days time, when it is ready it will be posted on this site