The Irish government has made a formal request to the European Commission to use €150 million of funding from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) to pay for climate measures, according to Aontú.
Ireland been allocated in the region €1 billion – or 20% of the entire reserve – it received €361.5 million in 2021, €276.7 million in 2022 and will receive a further €282.2 million in 2023.
The key objective of BAR is to support European Union member states to mitigate the impact of Brexit but funding from the reserve must meet a strict eligibility criteria.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has repeatedly called on the government to use BAR to support the sector.
The association is currently campaigning for a portion of the BAR fund to be used for a €50 million emergency support package for sheep farmers to cover 2023 and 2024.
But the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently told the Dáil that it may not be possible to use BAR to support the sheep sector.
“To use the Brexit adjustment reserve fund, one needs to be able to prove to the European Commission that Brexit is the reason prices are low and input costs are high. That would be a very difficult thing to prove.
“Unfortunately, we are finding great difficulty being able to meet the tests to draw down money from that fund,” he said.
Aontú said it has received confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) that the government has now made a request to access funding from BAR for climate measures.
Patrick Murphy, the party’s candidate in the next European Parliament elections for the Ireland South constituency, said that the request by the government to use BAR funding for climate-related measures is “slap in the face to rural Ireland”.
Murphy, who has been involved in the production of mussels in Roaringwater Bay for the past 25 years, believes that BAR funding should be ringfenced for “our farmers and our fishermen”.
“BAR funding was given by the European Union to mitigate the impact of Brexit. Despite farmers leaving the industry in debt, en masse and the fishing industry being completely decimated, the government did not adequately allocate these funds to them.
“As a fisherman and a small farmer, I intimately know how Brexit has devastated our community. This is just another example, among many, of how completely out of touch with rural Ireland this government is,” Murphy said.
He said the decision by the government to seek to redirect BAR funds into climate related measures was “simply cruel”.