Failure to obey EU rules costs country €12m

Ireland will have to pay about €12 million to the European Commission this year in respect of issues such as non-compliant farmers, and overpayments, which were revealed in audits by officials from the Commission.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney revealed details of the upcoming fine when recently defending his department’s approach to inspections and cross-compliance.

“It is not the case that the Government has decided to take a tough approach in dealing with farmers, rather, we are playing by the rules because if we do not do so, everybody, including farmers, will be obliged to pay the cost when issues arise from the audits to which I refer,” said the minister in the Dáil.

He said if some farmers are of the view they have been targeted for four years out of five, for example, that would be strange, and he would like to know about it and find out why it is the case.

He was responding to a Dáil question from Cork North West Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan, who said he had been approached by farmers who have been inspected under REPS, cross-compliance and the single farm payment year after year. “Some farmers who have been involved in REPS for the past 10 years have stated they have been subject to inspection almost every year,” said Mr Moynihan.

* In an unrelated matter, an informal internal investigation within the department has become a formal investigation. This was revealed in the Dáil by Environment Minister Phil Hogan. It arose in an adjournment debate where Senator Michael Mullins alleged Co Galway commonage landowners were met with delay and unjust impediment, when they lodged an appeal with the independent appeals office against results of inspection by the department.

Mr Hogan said while the formal investigation was ongoing, it was not appropriate for the appeals office to consider any appeal.

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