Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus, speaking after today’s vote in the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Development Committee, said it rejected the European Commission’s legal proposal for the Nature Restoration Law in its current form because there was too much ambiguity on the impact it would have for family farmers such as in the midlands and along the west coast of Ireland.
However he added that it is a necessity that nature restoration and protection takes place but that it must be done correctly with the full participation and say of rural Irish communities and family farmers.
“It really is a pity that certain sections of the European Commission and other stakeholders did not properly engage with those who have a clear understanding of rural communities including Irish family farmers in the west and midlands of Ireland.
“If they had done so, we could have had a Nature Restoration Law that would have been inclusive, unambiguous with realistic goals and measures. That would have led to nature restoration in an equitable manner with the support of local communities and farmers which I would have been happy to support. Differences in ambition, measures, objectives and scope could have been resolved.
“Everyone wants to see nature restored and protected, and there is still time for the Nature Restoration Law to be salvaged if rural concerns are taken on board, but there needs to be substantive consultation and engagement with local farming and rural stakeholders to try and bridge gaps and reach a mutual understanding on how the nature restoration law can work for everyone.
“There is still a chance to save it if the Environmental Committee takes this on-board, but MEPs that are vehemently opposed to the nature restoration law, no matter what form it may take, must also cooperate and be objective to ensure that the law truly reflects rural and farming concerns instead of rejecting it outright in the Environmental Committee and a full Parliament plenary.
“There is much anxiety from family farmers in Ireland around the Nature Restoration Law that must be addressed. Particularly the concerns around rewetting and the impact it could have on sheep and suckler farmers in my constituency along with the rest of the midlands and west of Ireland. It is of immediate concern for any farmer operating on peat soils. There must also be clarity on funding and property rights also.
“Sinn Féin supports a Nature Restoration Law that would reassure the fears of rural Ireland and family farmers. I hope the Environmental Committee takes this on board so the European Parliament can support a law that works. Forcing the Nature Restoration Law in its current form may indeed protect, restore and enhance biodiversity but there is too much ambiguity around the unintended consequences for family farmers and rural communities in the west and midlands of Ireland.
“Sinn Féin completely supports the need to protect, restore and enhance biodiversity, but EU policy makers and legislators must recognise that this must be done in partnership with farmers and rural communities not in spite of them, especially in Ireland. This is an opinion shared by Irish farming organisations who are the voices for many Irish rural communities.”