Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Aylward: asked the Minister for Agriculture the reason certain areas (details supplied) in the Tory Hill/Chapel Hill region of south Kilkenny did not satisfy the criteria laid down by the EC for inclusion under the disadvantaged areas scheme in the recent review of the boundaries; the reason lands of a better quality were included which were not in the original submission and smaller farms of poor quality omitted which were part of the original submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Reynolds: asked the Minister for Agriculture the reason no additional areas in County Longford were designated for inclusion in the severely handicapped areas scheme as announced by him recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Aylward: asked the Minister for Agriculture the reason an area (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was not included in the disadvantaged areas scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Dr. McCarthy: asked the Minister  for Agriculture the reason townlands were omitted when the disadvantaged areas were being revised in south Tipperary (details supplied) as the land in these townlands is equally as bad as if not worse than many of the new areas sanctioned; if he will reconsider his decision; if he will include these townlands this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. S. Byrne: asked the Minister for Agriculture the reason the townlands on the Tipperary side of the Knockmealdown Mountains are not included in the more severely handicapped category of the disadvantaged areas scheme, 1985, whereas land of the same type on the County Waterford side of the Knockmealdown Mountains has been designated more severely handicapped; and the reason the same problem also exists with Branahown and Doon which are located in south Tipperary but are not included, whereas lands of similar type on the Cork side of the Knockmealdown have been included.
Issues relating to disadvantaged areas, and to the drawing of boundaries between the more and less severely handicapped parts of those areas, cannot be dealt with on a county-by-county basis because the relevant physical characteristics do not respect county boundaries. The position must be considered in terms of broad regions possessing by and large the characteristics laid down in the basic Directive 75/268/EC and not in terms of the situation on individual farms. The characteristics concerned are: adverse physical handicaps, low economic returns and low or dwindling population depending mainly on agriculture, all three of which must be simultaneously present and proven to the satisfaction of the Community authorities. The adjustments recently proposed by the Commission to the boundaries of our disadvantaged areas represent the maximum possible area meeting these requirements.
Mr. Kirk: I should like to ask the Minister a question in regard to the different areas of County Louth and, in particular, the Cooley peninsula. I should like to know if there was agreement that all the areas submitted to Brussels for inclusion were included. I am referring to new areas to be included in the disadvantaged areas scheme and the reclassification of existing areas. Were they accepted by Brussels?
Mr. Connaughton: The information I have is that areas in respect of which representations were made were surveyed. They must have been when one considers that more than four million acres countrywide were surveyed.
Mr. Kirk: Could I ask one final supplementary, please? Is it correct that areas in County Louth, particularly in the Cooley Peninsula, which should have been submitted to Brussels to be included in the disadvantaged areas scheme were not submitted?
Mr. S. Byrne: The reply to the question refers to county boundaries. There must be something rather strange in my constituency. Land on the Knockmealdown Mountains is not included in the scheme and a couple of hundred yards over the mountain in Waterford similar land is included. In south Tipperary we have the same problem where land on the Cork side of the boundary is included and similar land in Tipperary is not. A blind man could see that there is no difference in the type of land and farming carried on there. It does not make sense at all. The officials must have gone astray in the bog when they were inspecting that area, but they were lucky to stay on the Waterford side.
Mr. Connaughton: What Deputy Byrne has said has been echoed throughout Ireland. I am sure Deputy Reynolds will have something to say in relation to Longford. This was the biggest single extension of the scheme.
Mr. Connaughton: This extension of the scheme was to include one and a quarter million acres across the country and no matter where one drew the boundary people on the outside of it genuinely believed they were entitled to be included. Strict criteria were adhered to in drawing up our submission.
Mr. S. Byrne: What is the difference between a farmer trying to exist in Waterford and in south Tipperary on similar type land? What official decided that one can be included and the other cannot? That official would need to have his eyes tested and not his teeth removed.
Mr. Reynolds: I do not know whether Deputy Byrne was extracting teeth or getting glasses but if he was trying to extract information, he has the wrong Minister here. If the other Minister was here he would have to admit that he had his own area included, so let us be blunt about it.
Mr. Reynolds: On the two previous  occasions on which the disadvantaged areas were advised, extensive areas of County Longford were included. We did not expect all areas of Longford to be included at one go, but we made progress on each of the other occasions. Those areas stand out as being totally disadvantaged, so can the Minister say why they were not included?
Mr. Reynolds: Will the Minister confirm that this was not a political decision? Anybody who examines the areas included can come to no other conclusion than that it was a political decision. It does not speak well for the Minister who represents our area in Cabinet.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick West): Does the Minister envisage changing the criteria involved in view of the unsatisfactory position in a number of counties and will the Minister initiate such a change?
Mr. Wilson: In view of the fact that the UK Government had put in their submission 12 months before us and that the people who are now included have lost out that much in time and money, would the Minister consider it appropriate now to make a submission for areas to be included in the severely disadvantaged areas schemes, areas which were left out for purely arbitrary reasons? No white man or his mother can make out why one townland was put in and another left out when one considers that some of the townlands which were left out are poorer than others included.
Mr. Connaughton: In relation to the  review submitted by the UK Government, that was their first review and this is our third, so we have gained more from the scheme. The concern shown by Deputy Wilson for Cavan——
Mr. Wilson: Would the Minister of State not agree that there has been an element of arbitrariness in the decisions, seeing that some reasonably fertile areas have been included while right alongside them very poor quality land has been excluded?
Mr. Connaughton: The important point about the last review was that because of the Government decision to reduce the measurement unit from a DED to a townland many townlands are now in which were not allowed to go in on the previous two occasions.
Mr. Wilson: Would the Minister not agree that there is a strong case for the inclusion of certain areas, for example all of my county and constituency, and that this should be submitted immediately to the EC Commission?
Mr. Connaughton: As I said in reply to an earlier question, that is not possible on this occasion, but in future in such reviews there might be some sort of machinery for appeal or some tribunal to whom one could appeal in the future.
Mr. N. Treacy: The Minister of State has stated that the townland system is  used rather than the district electoral division. Can he tell us why in certain DEDs only one townland was excluded? Will he confirm that it is a matter for the Government to decide what areas are going in when the submission is made?
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