Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers - Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Tuesday, 21 May 1985

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 358 No. 8

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16.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  asked the Minister for Agriculture if he is aware of the grave dissatisfaction in County Louth concerning the disadvantaged areas scheme and if he will make a statement on the matter.

17.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam 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.

18.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert 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.

19.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam 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.

20.

Dr. McCarthy: Information on Seán McCarthy  Zoom on Seán McCarthy  asked the Minister [1482] 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.

21.

Mr. S. Byrne: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán 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.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, together.

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.

[1483]Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus 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: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Just over four million acres were surveyed and that includes the areas mentioned.

Mr. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  Is the Minister saying that all the areas examined and submitted to Brussels in County Louth were included?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul 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: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Were all the areas submitted for inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme and for reclassification accepted by Brussels? Was any area included in the submission rejected?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  No. The areas were surveyed to meet the criteria laid down by Brussels.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Who carried out this survey work for the Department?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Several bodies were involved in it. Officers from my Department were involved, the advisory service, the AFT and the Land Commission to one degree or another.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Who was involved in the last survey before the submission?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  The bodies I have just mentioned were involved to one degree or another.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  In the survey work on the [1484] ground surely there was not an official from each section of the Department mentioned by the Minister?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  The survey was carried out along professional lines by the various agencies but primarily by the Department of Agriculture.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The Deputy has asked half a dozen questions at least. I am calling Deputy Seán Byrne.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus 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. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I am not aware that that is so.

Mr. S. Byrne: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán 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: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul 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.

(Interruptions.)

[1485]Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul 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: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán 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.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Question No. 22.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  No speeches.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The Minister here today was down in north Longford and he knows the hardship there and the bad land——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Is that a question?

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The Minister knows as well as I that the criteria applied to Longford, so can the Minister explain on behalf of the people in Longford why they have not been included?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  When the chance came in 1979 it was remarkable that they were not put in either and they were no better or worse that they are now.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  On the two previous [1486] 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?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  The criteria were applied to all areas under review. On this occasion the areas of which the Deputy speaks did not meet the requirements.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert 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.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  It is not a political decision?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Not at all.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  I am allowing Deputy Byrne one last question.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. S. Byrne: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán Byrne  Could the Minister explain the irregularity between the Waterford and the Tipperary situation? Was Tipperary examined or did the officials get lost in the bog?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  The criteria were applied and obviously the area the Deputy refers to did not meet the criteria on this occasion.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Order.

[1487]Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. 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. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  One of the criteria with which I am far from happy relates to a low or dwindling population. It is something to which we will have to address ourselves in the future.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): Is there to be no further review of the areas for another five years?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  That is something for the Government to decide.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): Can the Government at any time submit extra areas for consideration in Brussels?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  My understanding is that this is frowned upon in Brussels. We were given a time during which to make our presentation to Brussels and once it was submitted that was the end of it.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael J. Noonan  Zoom on Michael J. Noonan  (Limerick West): In view of the unsatisfactory situation would the Minister initiate such a submission for a further review?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  It is not intended to initiate such a submission.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. 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: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  In relation to the [1488] 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: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Yes, for years.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  That county did quite well on this occasion because of the land problems down there.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. 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: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul 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: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  That is not answering my question.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Because of that we were able to get the greatest single extension ever for the disadvantaged areas on this occasion.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. 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: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul 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.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  A final question from Deputy Noel Treacy.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Minister of State has stated that the townland system is [1489] 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?

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  We based the extension entirely on the criteria laid down by Brussels and that is what we have adhered to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  The remaining questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.


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