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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Dec 1976

Vol. 295 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Agricultural Grants.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if, in view of the uncertainty surrounding the amounts of grants that can be expected by farmers in disadvantaged areas during 1977 and subsequent years and because of the necessity to enable agriculture in these areas to be projected as far as possible on a planned basis, he will give details of the proposals made to the EEC Commission by his Department for the revision of the relevant schemes.

No proposals have been made so far to the EEC Commission for changes in the 1977 disadvantaged areas schemes. Inspections under the 1976 scheme have been concluded only recently and payment of grants is currently in progress. These schemes must follow the lines laid down in EEC Directive 268/75 and the nature and extent of changes which may be made are governed by the terms of the directive. Any change in the level of grants will be announced, as early as possible.

There are western counties which still are not included as designated areas although other areas outside have been included.

The Deputy knows there was a recent reassessment of a large number of areas throughout the country and that a small number have qualified which had not qualified earlier. However, there is no possibility of extending the areas beyond the present limits.

Would the Minister consider setting up a system whereby disadvantaged farms rather than areas would qualify? At the moment, within the disadvantaged areas there are very good farms and outside them there are very poor ones. The original scheme was drawn up in a rather haphazard way. Am I right in saying that the electoral boundaries were the only ones considered in the drawing up of the scheme?

At the time of the drawing up of the schemes I suggested the possibility of having them considered on the basis of individual holdings. The suggestion was turned down because it was considered to be unworkable. Even outside the disadvantaged areas there are farms which are as poor as, if not poorer than those inside.

There are areas which are disadvantaged but they are not so designated for the benefits of headage grants. We have been with the Department but we have been told there will be no extension of the disadvantaged areas although there have been extensions of the schemes outside these areas. Is there any possibility that the Minister would make representations to have the 12 recognised western counties included as being designated?

There is no possibility of having such a proposal accepted because these areas do not meet the criteria laid down in the directives.

The Minister knows the Lagan Valley in Donegal which is designated, but he also knows there are areas which are severly disadvantaged——

That is true. The schemes are not truly consistent but the trouble is to find a way to administer the schemes if they are not blocked out in some way consistent with recognised boundaries.

What are the criteria for deciding whether an area is to be designated?

It is a long list. I will send to the Deputy the criteria in detail.

Would the Minister send one to each Deputy?

I will be glad to do so.

The Minister will appreciate that there are many anomalies. For instance, recently parts of west Limerick were included following pressure from the IFA.

This was not our doing —it was not done by the officers here.

Would the Minister agree——

I want to get on to another question.

It is a vast question.

The second question also deals with the matter. A final supplementary.

Would the Minister agree that the scheme is full of anomalies, that areas which should be included have not been included but other areas which were seeking inclusion have been included? It is evident to anybody observing the application that the areas which could exercise the maximum pressure on the Minister and on the EEC, through large membership of the IFA in their areas, succeeded, whereas areas in County Galway where the IFA are not strong——

This is a speech we are having now instead of a question.

——and the farmers are poor and have poor land.

This is an argument entirely without substance because both the officials here and the EEC officials agree that the lines originally drawn were in fact as correctly drawn as it was possible to draw them.

Question No. 2 please.

They are changed.

Is the reason that the Minister is not changing them the fact that the Irish Government are responsible for the major amount of expenditure and cannot afford to expend any more money?

The disadvantaged areas are financed to the tune of 65 per cent now as a result of our efforts.