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IFA National Hill Farming Chairman Flor McCarthy has criticised the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Culture Josepha Madigan for not allowing managed burning of gorse to take place in March.
“The Minister has failed to take account of how farmers manage their hill land responsibly and where land is burned, it is done in a managed way.
Issues such as recent wildfires can be avoided if the window for burning included the month of March, which was enacted into law through the passing of the Heritage Bill last year.”
The weather conditions for burning are not the same throughout the country and putting a blanket ban to burning in March this year is a retrograde step.
It indicates a lack of understanding of the practical issues farmers face in managing their hill farms.

IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the opening up of applications for the National Walks Scheme, which will double the number of national walks and benefit up to 2,000 farmers.

At a meeting in Dublin with the Minister for Community and Rural Development, Michael Ring, the Minister confirmed to IFA that the €2m allocated in last Octobers’ Budget is now available to interested groups for application.

IFA National Hill Committee Chairman, Flor McCarthy said that there are a significant number of walks that will be in a position to apply and it is vital that they qualify without delay. The National Walks Scheme has been a valuable addition to the development of recreational tourism in peripheral areas and supports farmer input in the creation of walking routes.

Minister Ring also confirmed to IFA that labour rate for farmers own work in maintaining the walks will increase from €12.50/hr to €13.50/hr. This will also apply to both existing participants and new participants, including farmers who may be in the middle of their current contracts.

On the National Indemnification Scheme, the Minister confirmed to IFA that the legislation to cover land owners in the event of accident will be published shortly and will be rolled out initially on a pilot basis.

IFA impressed on the Minister, the urgency of getting this legislation through the Dáil, so that farmers and landowners are given all the protection they need from any claim that may arise.

IFA National Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring that he will bring in legislation that will indemnify landowners in the event of hillwalkers having an accident and making a claim.

Flor McCarthy said this issue has always been of great concern to landowners, particularly the cost involved in defending any case that could arise.

“The Minister has pledged to have this in place in 2019 & we would be hopeful that his bill gets cross-party support.”

The Hill Committee Chairman also welcomed the plan to double the number of farmers in the Walks Scheme.

He said the scheme has proved very attractive in creating walkways around the country and the additional €2m in funding will add to the network, and will bring another two thousand farmers into the scheme.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has called on all local authorities to develop plans to address the annual increase in littering of the countryside that takes place post-Christmas, as people recklessly dump cans, bottles, used wrapping paper and even the left overs of Christmas dinners.

Thomas Cooney said, “Recent reports indicate that packaging waste generated from online shopping will increase by 33% this year to 10,000 tonnes. The fact is that this will lead to increased dumping by passing motorists who have no regard for our rural countryside. And it’s time to get tough with these people.”

IFA is calling for more severe sanctions on serial dumpers and changes to the legislation so that farmers are no longer held legally responsible for reckless dumping by others.

Thomas Cooney said, “The on the spot fines for littering introduced this year have not worked. We need increased enforcement action by local authorities, as well as tougher sentences and penalties for large scale serial dumpers.

In a recent meeting with Environment Minister for State Seán Canney T.D., IFA also called for changes to existing litter legislation, by removing the current threat of fines and prosecution of famers on whose land others irresponsibly dump their litter.

IFA President Joe Healy has impressed on Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Michael Ring the need to increase the number of walks covered by the Walks Scheme from 40 to 80, and to increase the funding from €2m to €4m.

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