FARMERS ALONG SLIGO WAY PROTEST OVER GORSE FIRE FINES
FARMERS have withdrawn access to several walkways on rural mountains in South East Sligo in protest at what they see as unfair penalties for last year’s gorse fires.
The farmers erected signs recently saying “access to all mountain pathways will be withdrawn due to illegal burning” (pictured below).
They say they’re being forced to take action as they are being held responsible for the illegal burning of mountains in which they had “absolutely no part and which is beyond their control.”
“As anyone can appreciate, it is impossible to police hundreds of hectares,” said one farmer.
The action has been taken on the Killery, Dromore, Crossboy and Castleore mountains.
“They are incurring very severe penalties and a huge financial loss and just simply cannot continue footing the bill,” they added.
It’s just over a year since three gorse fires ravaged Killery Mountain, Geevagh and Lough Easkey/Ox Mountains at a cost to Sligo County Council of approximately ¤125,000.
Hundreds of acres of land were destroyed and a section of the Sligo Way boardwalk was damaged.
The Department of Rural and Community Development funded repairs to the boardwalk last summer.
However 33 farmers were notified by the Department of Agriculture that their Basic Payment would be reduced. They are awaiting the outcome of an appeal against this.
Sligo/Leitrim Deputy Eamon Scanlon said he “wouldn’t blame” the farmers for erecting the signs.
“These farmers are not going to put up with this any longer,” he said.
Killery farmer Mike Gaffney said he had seen hikers leaving the Sligo Way boardwalk, set up camp and light fires.
“They’re penalising the farmers but it could have been anyone.
“It’s like, God forbid, somebody burned your property and you’re being fined for it.
“It’s a double whammy. I had fencing burned and I had to replace that. I was out of pocket then.
“It’s over a year since the Mountain caught fire. I think they sent up a fire officer (to investigate) and it just came back inconclusive,” said Mike.“They can’t really point the finger at anyone,” he added.
See also page 25.
One of the signs erected by farmers at Crossboy crossroads.