Farmers in Co. Mayo have expressed their concerns over the proposed Nature Restoration Law, which calls for the rewetting of 25% of land in the west of Ireland. The public meeting, organised by Sinn Féin MEP, Chris MacManus, was held at the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris to discuss rural decline and regional imbalance. Farmers told politicians and representatives from farm organisations that the law would have a devastating effect on the west of Ireland, with one farmer stating that it would “wipe us out”. Other speakers at the event included Sinn Féin TD, Rose Conway-Walsh; president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), Vincent Roddy; local councillor, Gerry Murray; and former CEO of the Western Development Commission (WDC) and Ireland West Airport, Liam Scollan.
The proposed Nature Restoration Law is the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind, according to the European Commission. It is a key element of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, particularly those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters. The commission has stated that Europe’s nature is in alarming decline, with more than 80% of habitats in poor condition. It believes that restoring wetlands, rivers, forests, grasslands, marine ecosystems and the species they host will increase biodiversity, secure the things nature does for free, limit global warming to 1.5°C, and build up Europe’s resilience and strategic autonomy, preventing natural disasters and reducing risks to food security.
However, farmers at the meeting expressed concerns that the proposed law would have a devastating impact on their livelihoods. One farmer stated that “99% of farmers don’t know what the effect is, even though it’s going to be forced into law”. Another questioned how wind turbines would help biodiversity, arguing that insects and bees were unlikely to fly around them. Farmers also expressed concerns about the lack of engagement and consultation with them on the proposed law.
The INHFA has previously stated that the Nature Restoration Law is merely “designation by another name”. Vincent Roddy, the president of the INHFA, told the meeting that it was extremely important to protect the various agricultural sectors in the west of Ireland. He stated that “when you decimate any agricultural sector, you need to recognise the knock-effect of that on the rural economy”. Roddy also expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed law on the suckler sector, stating that “we have to look at other threats that are coming, in the form of the Nature Restoration Law”.
The proposed Nature Restoration Law will be up for discussion at parliament level in the EU on Tuesday, May 23. Farmers in the west of Ireland are calling for greater engagement and consultation with them on the proposed law, and for their concerns to be taken into account. They argue that the law, if implemented, would have a devastating impact on their livelihoods and on the rural economy in the west of Ireland.