A number of county councillors have expressed unhappiness about a new policy whereby the details of farmers' grants from Europe are being published online. This follows new EU regulations, which required details of all payments made to Common Agriculture Policy beneficiaries in 2014 to be published by member states. Some €1.8 billion was paid to 130,000 farmers and rural enterprises nationwide under CAP schemes last year.
At Monday's local authority meeting, Connemara councillor Seosamh Ó Cualáin tabled a motion objecting to the publication of the payments in future. He said this detail being available online was posing a huge security risk to farmers. "Any of us can go on this website and find out what farmers in the county are getting from the EU, and it is not fair. This information does not pertain to anybody else. It is not right that others know what farmers living in rural areas are earning. This is only playing into the hands of criminals."
Farmer and Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Connolly said it was creating a perception that farmers were creaming it. "This looks like they are getting money for jam, it is widely known that it costs thousands of euro to run a farm with feed costs etc; farmers have massive outlays."
Tuam Independent Sean Cunniffee said anything that gives the criminal fraternity any information on a person's private finances is wrong from a security point of view. "Criminals are very sophisticated nowadays, this is a new source of information and I am sure they will be using it."
Councillor Michael Fahy, a farmer himself, was also unhappy with the new regulations. "Why aren't the salaries of everybody else put up online? It is not acceptable that farmers are being singled out. It is very hard for people to make ends meet with all the costs involved, without these grants from Europe, nobody would be farming."
Tuam representative Karey McHugh told of a recent article she had read on the topic of farm thefts. "Former IFA president Padraig Walsh recently gave an interview where he outlined there are between 400 and 500 thefts on Irish farms every month. We need to protect our farmers in any way we can."
Independent councillor Jim Cuddy asked who was benefiting from the new regulations? "I can't see what is the purpose of putting this detail online. We need to send out the message loud and clear that we do not agree with this and the Agriculture Minister (Simon Coveney ) needs to take this up at European level."