Co-op sues Minister for Agriculture over €12m EU aid claim

A mushroom producers co-operative has sued the Minister for Agriculture claiming it has suffered more than €12m losses due to alleged unlawful withholding of EU financial aid.

Commercial Mushroom Producers Co-operative Society Ltd (CMP) claims the Department of Agriculture has limited the amount of aid available to CMP on the basis of expenditure caps which, it claims, have been unlawfully applied.

CMP chief executive Donal McCarthy also said that the Department had unlawfully refused EU financial aid in relation to expenditure actually incurred within budget.

Paul Gallagher, for CMP, established in 1999, applied yesterday to have its case against the minister fast-tracked in the Commercial Court.

Brian Kennedy, for the minister, argued CMP had failed to demonstrate sufficient urgency in bringing these proceedings such as entitled it to avail of the court’s fast-track procedures.

The department was also concerned about the resources implications for its small unit dealing with the claims if it had to adhere to the fast-track procedures of the court, counsel said.

Paul Gallagher, for the company, disputed there was any delay on CMP’s part and outlined a history of correrspondence and interaction between the department and his client concerning the alleged misadministration of the financial aid scheme.

This was a very difficult matter for the producers involved who would prefer not to fight with the Department and had tried over years to resolve the matter, counsel added.

Judge McGovern ruled the case had not demonstrated the necessary urgency and refused the fast-track application, meaning the action will now proceed via the ordinary High Court lists.


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