‘The fall­out for farm­ers from the storm will have to be ad­dressed ’

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE -

HENRY O’DONNELL counts him­self rel­a­tively lucky that only about 10 acres of his hold­ing was af­fected by last month’s se­vere storms in Done­gal.

“I had a 10-acre field of red clover badly af­fected by the storms but my neigh­bour had all his fenc­ing washed away dur­ing the rains and he had only com­pleted re-fenc­ing his farm,” says Henry.

“I could see what was hap­pen­ing from my kitchen win­dow but luck­ily I was on the right side of the Crana river and wasn’t badly af­fected.

“Farm­ers up here took a back seat when the storms struck first.

“They didn’t want to be com­plain­ing con­sid­er­ing the aw­ful amount of dam­age caused by the storms to peo­ple’s homes in the area and to the bridges and roads all around, but now that the storms have passed the prob­lems caused to the farm­ing com­mu­nity will have to be ad­dressed.”

Henry (50) es­ti­mates that up to 300 farms on Inishowen were dam­aged to vary­ing de­grees by the storms.

He farms 90 hectares of owned land and com­mon­age near the Sli­abh Sneacht moun­tain in Drum­fries on the Inishowen penin­sula where he runs a suck­ler and sheep en­ter­prise. He is married to Su­san and the cou­ple have two young daugh­ters, El­lie (12) and Ava (7).

There are 30 acres around the farm­house which he uses for graz­ing and silage, with the rest of his land lo­cated in and around the land­mark moun­tain. He has some 80 sheep on the moun­tain and a dozen con­ti­nen­tal suck­lers as his main farm­ing en­ter­prise.

Re­cently he in­tro­duced a herd of 16 Gal­loway cat­tle to the farm, and along with around a dozen neigh­bours the plan is to de­velop their own Sli­abh Sneacht beef brand for the Irish mar­ket.

Henry reck­ons this can be achieved within the next two years.

An ac­tivist with the Irish Natura and Hill Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and lo­cal LEADER com­pany, Henry helped de­velop the Sli­abh Sneacht cen­tre which is a com­mu­nity hub for the re­gion.

He has also been in­volved in the post-storm talks with the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture on how to get the af­fected Inishowen farms back to full pro­duc­tion.

The Depart­ment has an­nounced tar­geted fund­ing to ap­ply to losses of live­stock, fod­der and a con­tri­bu­tion to­wards clean-up costs, such as dam­age to fences. How­ever, only losses not cov­ered by in­sur­ance will be el­i­gi­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion. He feels more could be done for those im­pacted.

“All we have had is politi­cians look­ing for photo op­por­tu­ni­ties and then clear­ing off back to Dublin and do­ing noth­ing. We have had enough of that,” says Henry.

But he is quick to ex­clude Done­gal County Coun­cil from his crit­i­cisms. “They have been ex­cep­tional,” he says.

“They have dig­gers at the af­fected roads and river­banks clear­ing up and are help­ing with the fenc­ing of land.”

Like his farm­ing neigh­bours, Henry is quite clear about what needs to be done.

His list in­cludes crit­i­cal short-term ac­tions like giv­ing tem­po­rary dero­ga­tions to the Inishowen farm­ers in the GLAS scheme, tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend­ing farm in­spec­tions in the re­gion and front-load- ing 70pc of the ba­sic farm pay­ment to give the af­fected farm­ers the fi­nan­cial abil­ity to get their en­ter­prises back to nor­mal.

Henry main­tains that these would be short-term and cost-ef­fec­tive mea­sures which would ad­dress the prob­lems of the farm­ers con­cerned.

He adds that he is not hold­ing his breath wait­ing for ac­tion from Agri­cul­ture House in Dublin on the pro­posed aid scheme.

PHOTO: JOE BOLAND, NORTH­WEST NEWS PIX

Henry O’Donnell pic­tured with some of his Black Gal­loway cat­tle on the fam­ily farm near Drum­fries, Co Done­gal

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