Department acted unfairly in seeking recovery of €25,000 over flooded land in Kerry, Ombudsman rules

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The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the Republic acted unfairly in seeking the recovery of €25,000 from a man after his land flooded, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has found.

A man complained to the Ombudsman after the Department sought to recover a grant of over €25,000 from him following flooding of his land in Kerry. The man had received a grant under the Department’s Afforestation Scheme to establish a forest on his land. However the forest had been destroyed following severe flooding in 2009.

The Ombudsman decided that the Department had acted unfairly in seeking recovery of the money.

Peter Tyndall said: “Where people apply for and receive grants in good faith, they should not be reclaimed. This is particularly so in this case where the farmer lost his crop through no fault of his own and was hit with the double blow of a bill from the Department. I’m glad we were able to put things right.”

The Department maintained that the man knew that his land was prone to flooding when he made the application for the grant in 2004. It also maintained that the man was partially responsible for damage to the forest.

The Ombudsman discovered that the Department had inspected the man’s land and had been made aware that the land may be prone to flooding prior to granting the man’s application. In addition, the Ombudsman was satisfied that the Department’s definition of force majeure applied in this particular case and therefore, the man was not responsible for the destruction of the forest. The Department agreed to not pursue the repayment.

Full details of this case are on the Office of the Ombudsman’s website.