‘Reintroduce birds? You’ll have to pay us!’

Too used to handouts, farmers want more, writes Jack Power.

THERE’S a scene in one of those tweedy, Edwardian comedies, the ones that do little more than confirm that a lot of English people have no real sense of humour, where a bewildered woman is introduced as, say, Daphne.

“This is Daphne, she’s awfully sad because her son was swept away by a golden eagle at last year’s Highland Games just outside Blairgowrie. The wee chap was never seen again, not even his prefect’s lapel button... ”

At this point Daphne is overcome and exits stage left, weeping and crushed.

Tinned laughter confirms that the writer anticipated a jolly response.

What a pity Neilie O’Leary and his opportunist mob of IFA extortionists would not exit stage left. The cheering would not come from the special effects’ library.

A hard core of farmers have become so addicted to compo and subvention — they’re called handouts by everyone else — that they want another slice of the action to agree to the reintroduction — yes, reintroduction not introduction — of sea eagles to Killarney’s National Park.

We cannot really feign surprise.

Compo not to pollute the country long after the dirty deed was done; compo to reclaim land; compo to leave land idle; compo for having businesses that don’t pay their way; compo for living in a ‘disadvantaged’ area; compo for getting caught in dodgy export deals; compo for not turning the entire country into a sea of silage; compo for turning beautiful landscapes into Christmas tree monocultures; compo because the floods came; compo because the bloody cow is more black than white; compo for not getting enough compo...

The compo culture has, in the eyes of the majority of Irish people I fear, diminished the perception of a once-great and industrious sector of our community, a sector most of us were proud to acknowledge as part of our family history.

Ireland’s Kulaks may recoil from such a characterisation — as I would were I so defined — but whether farmers like it or not that is how they have come to be seen, more associated with the crap food produced by some farmer co-ops, never-silent begging bowls, water pollution and a unique set of expectations (well, maybe expectations on a par with hospital consultants) rather than producers of excellent produce and trustworthy and welcoming custodians of the countryside.

This is a tragedy for both sides as most farmers want no more than to turn an honest day’s work into an honest day’s pay.

It is especially sad at a time when so many farmers are trying to cope with a level of change which none of us could have imagined and most of us would dread.

At a time when so many of our country cousins are in a dreadful position they need the bleatings of Neilie O’Leary like they need Argentinean beef, no matter if a few gobdaw politicians (think peaky caps 24/7) cynically jump on the bandwagon. Just like the rest of us the majority of farmers deserve better representation.

Whether Neilie O’Leary likes it or not, all the evidence is that these birds are no threat to lambs — going rate about €90. We all know the fear is really about land designation and land values. So let’s welcome the eagles and end the comedy.

I can offer Neilie one crumb of hope though — if he can tear himself away from preparing his Single Payment documentation due to be finished next Friday week and panning out at around €1.2 billion for the 26 counties.

Should an eagle make off with a hill walker it’ll be one less problem for him — that is unless of course the IFA manages to browbeat the Government into paying compo for allowing people access to the country’s uplands.

Then it would be the loss of a customer and we all know what that means.

More compo.

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