Rural politicians express anger as Nature Restoration Law ratified

‘Entire economic and social ecosystem of Rural Ireland is in jeopardy’ says Fitzmaurice

In a move that has alarmed many within the farming community in Ireland, the Nature Restoration Law was ratified by the Council of Ministers in Brussels on Monday morning last, June 17th. The slim margin by which it was passed is now the subject of further legal challenges originating out of Austria, where the Environment Minister disobeyed a diktat from their Prime Minister on the issue and voted in favour of the regulation.

Backed by the outgoing Green Party Leader, Eamon Ryan TD, who announcement his retirement on Tuesday, this legislation is expected to have profound impacts, especially on farmers working with peaty soil. Michael Fitzmaurice TD has been a vocal critic, expressing deep concerns about the law’s implications for rural Ireland.

Fitzmaurice highlighted the impending challenges, stating: “The State will (probably) be able to manage the transition until 2030. However, the real problem will emerge post-2030, especially for smaller farmers farming on peaty soil across this country. The entire economic and social ecosystem of Rural Ireland is in jeopardy”.

Fitzmaurice criticized the persistent campaign led by the Green Party, supported by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, to push through this legislation: “We’ve seen what happens once European elections are over –  other countries capitulate, and this law gets through without resistance. The result is that Irish farmers will bear the brunt of these political decisions”.

Drawing on past experiences, Fitzmaurice referenced the consequences of the Habitats Directive, noting the hardships faced by the people of Lough Funshinagh: “Unfortunately, the people of Lough Funshinagh have found out the hard way that a turlough takes priority over their homes and livelihoods – this is bad law”.

Fitzmaurice warned about the long-term regional impacts: “The West, the Midlands, the North-West, and the South-West will experience severe consequences down the road. The European Elections aren’t over a wet week and it’s ‘plough on’ from Europe.

“Yes, the procedure is what it is, but if timing means anything, it is clear to be seen that there has been an orchestrated effort by the EU Council of Ministers to dampen these proposals and take them off the field as an election issue”.

The newly-elected Independent Ireland MEP, Ciaran Mullooly also expressed his discontent and drew the ire of proponents of the laws online with Dublin-based Green Party TD, Neasa Hourigan, taking to X (formerly Twitter) to say of Mullooly: “Either you are knowingly misleading people here or you genuinely don’t understand the democratic process a piece of legislation like this goes through. Not sure which one of those options is worse”.

On Monday morning, MEP Mullooly labelled the timing of the Council of Ministers’ decision as “cynical” in a video which he posted on the platform.

Mullooly criticised the proponents of the Nature Restoration Laws for, as he sees it, misinterpreting his comments: “It is disingenuous for proponents of the Nature Restoration Laws to say that they genuinely misinterpreted my comments. It is obvious that the Council of Ministers held up the ratification of the Nature Restoration Laws, in order to avoid any electoral blowback”.

Mullooly’s defence against the “Green spin” is that it “does nothing to help the lives of constituents” and “only acts to further erode trust” in the European democratic processes and institutions.

Deputy Fitzmaurice further explained the challenges farmers will face under this new regulation: “What people seem to lose sight of in this debate is the fact that in order to qualify for a basic farm payment under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) going forward, farmers on peaty soil will have to commit to not draining, shoring, or ploughing their lands. The word ‘voluntary’ is a great buzzword, but only for those who can survive without the CAP payment”.

Deputy Fitzmaurice added: “Beyond 2030, the Nature Restoration Laws are going to place huge pressure on the social and economic ecosystems of Rural Ireland. While on its face, subsidising farmers not to farm their land might appear to make sense in the context of rewilding lands, the reality is that the knock-on effects for towns and villages across rural Ireland will be detrimental”.

Both Fitzmaurice and Mullooly are calling for the Oireachtas to ensure that the implementation of the Nature Restoration Law has the minimum negative impact on farmers and rural communities. They stress that the social fabric of rural Ireland is at risk, urging stakeholders to remain vigilant and proactive.