Friday, 11 June 2010

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse...

THERE’S a theory out there that you don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, or afford the fine.

So, why on earth is the taxpayer – that’s us – paying for the Agriculture Committee and assorted minions and helpers travelling to Brussels to beg the European Commission not to fine NI plc for cocking up farm grants?

The culprits may – or may not – have been farmers playing fast and loose with claims, but when the Department of Agriculture failed to check up on the various grant claims it was caught out by the EU: the result a £60m fine.

Now it may seem excessive given that it is around 60 times the alleged amount of dodgy claims, but it is sort of in the rules; and NI plc has long benefited from EU handouts.

But, the members of the Agriculture Committee and their retinue traipsed over – hopefully on economy flights – to the EU headquarters to plead the case. And, Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew is threatening legal action against Europe.

The cost of said travel and potential court action...could amount to severe amount of cash with no guarantee of success, and a lot of mood music from the EU that comes to the tune of ‘Away and catch yerselves on!’

Perhaps we are naive but surely there comes a point when you cut your losses, swallow the medicine and like a speeding motorist ask the Magistrate for an extended period to pay the fine.

Or are our politicians posturing for the sake of the cameras? Perish the thought!

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