Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, Fianna Fáil Seanad spokesperson on Agriculture, has called on the Government to provide compensation to farmers whose fencing and agricultural infrastructure was destroyed in the gorse fires which swept across parts of the north west and the midlands four weeks ago.
Making the call on the adjournment debate in Seanad Éireann last night, Senator Ó Domhnaill said, “The gorse fires that took place across many parts of the Country including County Donegal between April 30th and May 5th caused widespread damage. Donegal County Council is facing a bill of €400,000 which relates to 169 fire incidents that the council responded to across the county.
“While the full extent of the damage has not yet been confirmed, the Donegal County Manager has reported that an estimated 3% of the total land mass across the county was damaged, including 7,700 hectares of land in the Dungloe-Doochary area alone along with approximately 550 hectares of Coillte Forestry land in Donegal and three private forestry’s in Dungloe, Portnoo and Glenties.
“Enormous credit is due to the council, the fire services, local volunteers, the army, the gardaí and the civil defence for the tremendous work carried out in the face of challenging conditions brought about by the fire.
“But the challenge is far from over. The farmers who have had their infrastructure destroyed simply cannot afford to replace it alone. I am calling on the Minister to ensure a compensation package is put in place to allow farmers obtain grant aid to install replacement fencing.
“The response which I have received in the Seanad from Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Shane McEntee TD was far from encouraging, and clearly indicated that the Government did not intend to provide compensation to farmers for the damage caused during the spate of wildfires. Instead, it seems that the Government expects farmers to foot the bill themselves for repairing the damage caused.
“Minister McEntee did however indicate that if the farming groups in County Donegal submitted figures outlining the extent of the damage caused, he would consider providing some level of compensation.
“Therefore I urge all farmers to liaise with their respective farming body in order that a comprehensive breakdown of the cost of damages can be submitted to the Minister for consideration.
“I will be doing everything possible to hold the Minister for account on this issue as I firmly believe that the Government has an obligation to compensate farmers for the extent of the losses incurred.”