Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 28.

Commonage Framework Plans

Questions (50)

Michael Moynihan


50. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the updated situation on the revised commonage plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21477/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Commonage lands form an important part of the farming enterprises of many farmers, particularly along the West Coast. They also form an important part of the local environment from the point of view of bio-diversity, wildlife, amenities and economic returns e.g. tourism. However, there is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing becomes more of a problem.

Under-grazing leads to an increase in ineligible land under Direct Aid and Agri-Environment Schemes and leads to risk of financial corrections being imposed by EU Commission. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the commonages in GAEC (Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition), or where there is under-grazing, to return the habitat to GAEC. It is my stated aim that this will be achieved by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant State Agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders.

I readily acknowledge that it will not be an easy task, but it is achievable if all stakeholders work in a co-operative basis. If action is not taken now, the areas will continue to deteriorate and will lead to more land abandonment. If this is allowed to happen, Ireland will lose a valuable resource from the point of view of farming, rural economy, bio-diversity and wildlife. While grazing is the only method of managing these lands, the task facing us is how to ensure that these grazing levels are appropriate to the individual commonages.

In order to ensure the achievement of this objective, as already stated, we need the input of individual shareholders. Grazing plans, at the level of each commonage, will allow for greater flexibility for shareholders and will enable the active farmers to increase their stock to cater for dormant and inactive persons. It will be a matter for agreement between the shareholders – as was always the case – to decide how best to reach the stocking levels. Professional assistance will be required, in particular where the commonage has been damaged by under-grazing.

The Grazing Plan will have to cater for the traditional farming methods for the area, with provision made for sheep and other animals, such as cattle, providing that they are appropriate to the habitat. An appropriate time-scale will have to be put in place but the Plan should include the incremental steps to achieve GAEC. The whole concept will be output driven, in that the assessment of the Plans will be based on whether the commonage is in GAEC or not or whether the appropriate progress has been achieved.

Apart from ensuring that the Grazing Plan is valid, there are a number of other complications, including:

Dormant shareholders – in the majority of cases, these persons are no longer farming;

Current claimants on the commonages, who do not farm or manage the lands. The issue of whether the latter claimants will continue to be eligible for payment will have to be examined.

There are other issues that will need to be considered. These include the fact that many commonage habitats have been significantly damaged by under-grazing, with resulting problems that must be addressed including land abandonment, spread of scrub and invasive species.

While it is generally accepted that this is a very complex matter and requires a very detailed action plan to cover the various issues, I intend to set out proposals on how these matters will be progressed in the near future.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Application Numbers

Questions (51)

Robert Troy


51. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends increasing the number of places on the agri-environment options scheme 3 to cover all eligible applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21482/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Despite the challenging budgetary constraints facing my Department, last year I allocated €20 million annually to fund a new agri-environment scheme and on foot of this I announced the re-opening of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS 111). I decided on a maximum payment of €4,000 per annum for individual applicants and based on the average payment under the scheme in the past, this would allow for approximately 6,000 new participants to be accepted into the scheme.

My intention is to complete the AEOS III selection process shortly and to notify all applicants of the outcome and of the commencement dates under the scheme in the case of successful applicants. Because the number of applications exceed the number that can be accepted into the scheme, it is absolutely essential that decisions are made on accurate data. For that reason, my Department has taken time to contact the applicants where queries arise to obtain the required information in order for the application to be appropriately assessed.

Unfortunately, given budgetary constraints, it will not be possible to allocate additional funding to AEOS III in order to extend the number of available places in the Scheme.

Animal Welfare Issues

Questions (52)

Dara Calleary


52. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends to introduce a scheme for the orderly destruction of unwanted surplus horse; when this scheme will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21484/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is making available substantial resources to deal with equine related issues. In particular, funding is provided to Local Authorities under the Control of Horses Act, 1996, to enable these bodies to implement their extensive powers relating to the control and welfare of stray or abandoned horses. In keeping with advice on humane disposal of horses from the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council (which comprises representatives from a wide range of stakeholder organisations including farming, equine and welfare bodies), substantial numbers of horses are disposed of each year under the Control of Horses Act. There are no plans at this juncture to go outside this arrangement. The horse industry must play its role and respond to changes in the market place and educate and increase awareness among owners on responsible breeding, particularly in the current economic environment.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

Questions (53)

Billy Kelleher


53. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of money expended by his Department and Bord Iascaigh Mhara to date on the development of applications for aquaculture licences for a series of large finfish farms around the coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21490/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department has not been involved in the development of applications for aquaculture licences for finfish farms.

At present, my Department is processing one application for a “deep sea” salmon farm that was submitted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). BIM has submitted an application for an Aquaculture and a Foreshore Licence for the cultivation of Finfish near Inis Oirr in Galway Bay.

BIM is an independent statutory body. The matters raised by the Deputy in relation to BIM are operational issues and are therefore matters for BIM itself. BIM’s application and its accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently being considered fully in accordance with the provisions of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act and the 1933 Foreshore Act as amended.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on an application which is under active consideration as part of a statutory process.

Foreign Conflicts

Questions (54)

Finian McGrath


54. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has raised the subject regarding US drone attacks in Pakistan which have killed 4,000 men, women and children; if he will also raise this matter at the United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21874/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Government is deeply concerned by instances where innocent civilians, including children, have been killed by drone attacks. In line with the UN Global Strategy on Counter Terrorism, we believe that effective counter terrorism and the protection and promotion of human rights are mutually reinforcing and not competing goals. Ireland has consistently taken the view that combating terrorism must be conducted in full respect of international law, in particular the law of armed conflict and human rights law. The law of armed conflict sets specific requirements to the use of force, including the principles of necessity, proportionality and distinction.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, has regular discussions with the US about the legal aspects of combating international terrorism.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

Questions (55)

Pearse Doherty


55. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No.153 of 23 April 2013, if he will confirm the amount donated by Irish Aid to the Clinton Foundation in 2011 and 2012. [21599/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland has worked in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Mozambique since 2003 and in Lesotho since 2006. CHAI is one of a series of separate initiatives established by the Clinton Foundation. It works in association with Governments and other partners to scale up prevention and treatment programmes for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, and to develop integrated health systems in partner countries. Following an evaluation of its effectiveness, the partnership between Irish Aid and the Initiative was renewed in 2010, with an agreement to work together with partner Governments in Mozambique and in Lesotho for the period 2011-2015. Ireland’s engagement is managed by our Embassies in the two countries, which are Key Partner Countries for our aid programme, where we have a commitment to long-term strategic assistance.

In Mozambique, Irish Aid provided €12 million in 2011 and €12 million in 2012 in support of the work with the Clinton Health Access Initiative. The funding was provided to the Mozambique Ministry of Health, using government systems which meet the necessary standards of transparency, accountability and reporting.

In addition, in 2011 a grant of €295,000 was made directly to CHAI in Mozambique to support the implementation of its Annual Work Plan. A grant of €200,000 was made in 2012. These grants support the provision by CHAI of technical support to the Ministry of Health, including on drug procurement and the roll-out of health technology. Our partnership in Mozambique has resulted in improved treatment and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with over 66,000 women treated annually. Over 200,000 people are now receiving HIV treatment in Mozambique, compared to under 2,000 at the end of 2002.

In Lesotho, based on the agreement with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ireland provided €4.1 million in 2011 and € 3.86 million in 2012 for HIV/AIDS programmes through the Ministry of Health. An evaluation of the programme in Lesotho covering the period 2006 to 2011 was conducted by Irish Aid in 2012, in consultation with CHAI and the Ministry of Health. It concluded that the programme had delivered important results, including the provision of health services for 215,000 people in remote areas of Lesotho and HIV testing and counselling for 65,123 people.