I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his explanation of what happened earlier.
The Minister is aware of the Shass Mountain landslide at Drumkeeran. Approximately 55 ha of land was affected, with approximately 170,000 tonnes of peat on the land. It was an extensive landslide. Subsequent to the landslide, which was ten and a half months ago, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, organised a meeting and the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Cowen, came to Drumkeeran and made a commitment that all farm payments on the land, including under the basic payment and areas of natural constraints schemes, would be paid last year and, indeed, they were. Subsequently, the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, has held a number of meetings of the stakeholder group.
A lot of positive work has happened through the auspices of Leitrim County Council and the Department of Transport. However, the one Department that has not engaged with the people on the ground and with the farmers is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Minister of State is well aware that right now farmers are putting in their applications for the basic payment scheme. When they do this they tick various boxes. One of the commitments they make is that their land is in good agricultural and environmental condition. How are they supposed to do this when there are several feet of peat on the land? They cannot walk on it let alone put out an animal. They have not been given any advice. What will happen? Will these payments be made under force majeure? If they claim these payments and received them will there be penalties because they ticked boxes that the land was in a certain condition and it was not?
I have spoken to many farmers. They have to apply for their basic payment. What do they do? We raised this question a week and a half ago at the stakeholder meeting and we were not given any kind of response. In other words, the farmers were supposed to get on with it. Get on with what? Will the Minister of State give these farmers the same guarantee the former Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine gave them and state these payments will be paid under force majeure and that there will be no penalties for claiming these payments? Approximately 20 landowners are affected. We have not had the type of proactive engagement from the Department that we have had from other Departments.
To some extent, farmers have been treated badly. I have spoken to many of them and they say that they have heard nothing from the Department. They want to hear from Deputy McConalogue, as Minister, this evening what they are supposed to do, what plans or proposals the Minister has in place for compensation for the damage that has occurred on this land and what is the long-term outlook for agriculture on this land. As I said, this happened ten and a half months ago. As the Minister will be aware, when landslides occurred in other parts of the country, they were dealt with much more quickly and efficiently than this one. Leitrim farmers have as much a right to be dealt with in a proper way as farmers elsewhere.