Flooding relief and knowledge transfer have been confirmed to be two of the eight Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture (DAERA) decisions awaiting ministerial sign-off AgriLand can reveal.

Devastating floods struck farms in the north-west in August - yet seven months on civil servants continue to insist their hands are tied in terms of providing aid to farmers without a minister in place.

It comes as Northern Ireland enters its 15th month without a functioning executive, with the latest round of talks ending in a squabble over an alleged draft agreement.

A response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by AgriLand stated that the eight decisions awaiting sign-off were as follows:

  • Designation of quiet area under environment noise regulations;
  • Review of bathing waters;
  • Consultation on draft marine plan;
  • Voisinage fisheries agreement;
  • Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority board appointment;
  • Flooding support;
  • Horse racing levy fund;
  • DAERA knowledge framework.

However, the department would not say why any of the decisions required ministerial approval and did not provide further details of what was included in each of the decisions.

A spokeswoman said: "Any incoming minister would have the right to review all matters presented to them and may make amendments which could alter the outcome of a policy and therefore the decision-making process."

She added: "Release of these details before a policy is agreed, specifically in the absence of a minister, may inhibit frank discussions in the future which would impact negatively on decision making."

Help in Donegal

Meanwhile just over the border, flood-stricken farmers in the Republic were able to avail of a maximum of €15,000 each. It’s understood the majority of those affected have already been paid.

AgriLand previously reported that a meeting involving Northern Ireland’s TB taskforce – the TB Strategic Partnership Group – had also been delayed by the absence of an agriculture minister in Northern Ireland.

After several months of delays, the meeting eventually proceeded without a sitting minister for agriculture; the delay meant measures to tackle TB were set back; while the disease reached its worst level in well over a decade.