The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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