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. There is a substantial risk of land abandonment as under-grazing become 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.
The farming of commonages lands has a long tradition in Ireland. It is by its very nature a complex area – there are issues about the legal right to claim and there have always been disputes about the grazing of the commonages. In the vast majority of cases, however, commonage shareholders work well together on a co-operative basis to maintain the commonages in GAEC or where there is under-grazing to return the habitat to GAEC.
My stated intention is to achieve this by working with the farmers directly managing the lands, relevant state agencies, the farming organisations and all other interested stakeholders. It will not be an easy task but it is achievable if we all work in a co-operative basis. It is expected that this process will commence shortly.