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 Header Item Northern Ireland Issues (Continued)
 Header Item Farm Partnerships

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan] When discussing the past in Northern Ireland and its legacy of loss and hurt, the iconic tragedies, such as Ballymurphy and Kingsmill, the murder of Pat Finucane and the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, are never far from my thoughts. In regard to the latter, I share Deputy Smith's disappointment that the British Government has not yet positively responded to the relatively modest requirements of the all-party motion approved by this House. It is an issue that I have raised on a number of occasions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and I will continue to do so while I have the honour of serving in this position.

I assure the Deputy that the Government remains committed to finding a way forward so that the setting up of the new institutional framework on the past can take place on an agreed basis, as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement. We are determined to achieve the establishment of these institutions so that we can in a fundamental way deal with the past, foster reconciliation and build a society for future generations that is free from hurt and suspicion. This is essential if the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement is to be realised.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Minister for his detailed response.

The Minister has had a number of meetings, and earlier today a number of Members of the Oireachtas from all political parties met with the group Justice for the Forgotten to discuss the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and other atrocities. If the Minister and his Department can continue to engage with the different representative groups in the aftermath of the Fresh Start agreement, it is important to reassure the groups that these issues will continue to be given the attention they need and that there can be no moving away from this issue until progress is achieved.

Elections will be held, both North and South, in 2016, and we all are fully aware of the additional difficulties in making progress on important and sensitive issues leading up to election time. Both Governments and the five Northern Ireland Executive parties must give these issues the highest priority this month and in January.

For Northern Ireland to truly move forward, we need to put in place mechanisms that deal with the legacies of the past. Victims and survivors, be they of atrocities committed North or South, have a basic entitlement to the truth. The most evil of crimes and large-scale murder were witnessed on this island, perpetrated by paramilitary organisations, and some British state forces were involved in collusion in the most heinous of crimes.

For our society, and particularly for the families concerned, the truth must be forthcoming. The necessary mechanisms have to be put in place to get the facts. Thorough and unimpeded investigations are needed, and no Government or State agencies or political groupings can be allowed to continue to block the truth process. The British Government's invoking what is in reality a veto is no longer acceptable, and I am glad the Minister referred to the unanimous motions of this House, passed in 2008 and 2011, on the need to give access to the papers and files relating to the horrific murder of so many in May 1974 in both Dublin and Monaghan. This is an issue, along with many others, that needs to be on the agenda in every meeting with the British Government and members of that Government.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I acknowledge the commentary of Deputy Smith and, indeed, acknowledge his support and that of his party, both in recent times and prior to that, in terms of our approach here to matters pertaining to Northern Ireland.

The Government has a long track record of defending and promoting the rights of victims and survivors. The record clearly shows that successive Irish Governments, including those of Deputy Smith's party, have rigorously pursued justice and truth for those adversely affected by the Troubles.

This commitment to victims and survivors will remain a key priority for this Government and for myself. Whether it is Ballymurphy or Kingsmill, the Dublin-Monaghan bombings or the late Pat Finucane, the measure of one's commitment is not the loudness but the resilience and persistence. This commitment was demonstrated again through the Government's work with the British Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland in agreeing the Stormont House Agreement of December last year. This was a watershed moment in terms of dealing in a fundamental way with the legacy of the past. I met victims' representatives in recent times and I will continue to do so, and make myself available, as will my Government colleagues.

It is now important to continue our efforts to implement in full the new institutional framework on the past, as agreed under the Stormont House Agreement, which builds on the substantial progress achieved on legacy issues at the recent talks and keeps the needs of the victims and their survivors at the centre of everything these new institutions will do. The opportunity to set up the institutions must not be lost, and I intend having further meetings between now and the Christmas season.

Farm Partnerships

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris We have all been supportive of the partnership arrangement for younger and older farmers as a mechanism for encouraging young people to stay on the land and build up their own entitlements with the expertise that many of them have gleaned through Pallaskenry and other colleges where young farmers go for farming education. The problem, as I understand it, is that although there have been roughly 800 applications for the scheme, apparently only 300 have been processed. If these applications are not processed, it will run into next year, and the young farmers who have not had their applications processed will lose the top-up on their entitlements. It would also affect their green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, payments and the higher grants under the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, which are essential for young farmers, because availing of the TAMS support and grant system amounts to putting good capital investment into farm holdings.

Those who have not been processed will not access GLAS within the current deadline of 14 December. Furthermore, partnerships that have been created are missing vital information such as commonages from their applications, which means that they cannot enter GLAS and there is no sign they will have their information updated. The loss to the young farmer will be quite substantial.

I hope the delay in processing these partnerships will be dealt with, because it is preventing young farmers from applying for those entitlements. I understand the computer system will not allow GLAS planners to submit applications for unprocessed partnerships. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State could give me a positive response to my queries.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Tom Hayes): Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to answer his queries about the difficulties he has outlined. I welcome the opportunity to address the Dáil today on the matter of support for farmers and, in particular, possible issues relating to partnerships.

The range of schemes available to farmers, such as the basic payment scheme, BPS, under Pillar 1 and the areas of natural constraints, ANC, scheme and GLAS under the new Rural Development Programme, RDP, 2014-2020, are vital supports for farmers, as the Deputy correctly points out. In rolling out the new BPS and RDP schemes, I have been anxious to ensure that cognisance is taken of the role that partnerships play in addressing a range of economic and social issues in today's agrifood sector.

The main schemes that fall for payment to farmers at this time of the year are the basic payment scheme, the greening payment and the ANC scheme. The basic payment scheme replaces the old single payment scheme and includes for the first time this year a new greening payment. At present, my Department is processing applications from some 122,000 farmers who currently have entitlements under the scheme.

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