The Rural Independent Group has declared war on NGO An Taisce, calling for the group to be defunded and arguing that they have shown an “utter lack of consideration to the rural economy” by challenging planning permission for a Kilkenny cheese plant.

“We call for an end to the annual €3.5 million of taxpayer’s money going to An Taisce,” said leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie McGrath.

“Confirmation that An Taisce is seeking leave to appeal the recent decision of the High Court, which dismissed its challenge to granted planning permission for the cheese manufacturing facility in Belview, Co. Kilkenny is horrendous.

“An Taisce have done everything possible to delay, frustrate and derail this project. It underscores the organisation’s utter lack of consideration to the rural economy, where every job is essential.

“This plant would create many jobs and support the agri-food sector and the region. An Taisce’s fanatical stance shows no understanding for the common good,” McGrath added.

Additionally, Independents hit out at An Taisce’s defence of the move, in which they cited climate action as the reason for opposing the plant.

“Perhaps what is even more perplexing here is the fact that An Taisce have stated, in their defence of seeking this review, that their basis for doing so, is the government’s climate action strategy,” Deputy McGrath said.

“This illustrates the dangers of the carbon legislation to the agriculture sector and provides a basis for this reckless appeal, which attacks the dairy sector by claiming it has too many cows.

Continuing, the statement blasted the fact that the group largely received its funding from taxpayers.

“This organisation consistently objects to jobs, investments, infrastructure and one-off housing in rural Ireland. At the same time, they receive most of their annual funding from the government.

“Last month, my colleagues and I in the Rural Independent Group established that An Taisce is now receiving around €3.5 million of taxpayer funding every single year. In fact, a review of the organisation’s financial statements shows receipt of more than €25 million over the last decade.

“Such legal challenges are expensive. Given that the majority of An Taisce’s income comes from the taxpayer, it is time to investigate how the organisation is funding such activities and whether or not taxpayers’ funds are being used.

“The only credible solution is a full root and branch financial review of this organisation. We believe all state funding to An Taisce must cease immediately. In the meantime, a full independent investigation must be undertaken to determine if taxpayers’ money is, in fact, being used to fund objections and legal court challenges, like this one, against economic development, job creation and rural housing by the agency.”

While numerous government TDs have spoken out against An Taisce over the issue, rural independents said this lacks “credibility”, arguing that it is their own government that “props up” the organisation.

“No doubt we will hear government politicians lining up to attack this latest anti-rural stance by An Taisce. However, how can this carry any credibility, when their own government is using taxpayer’s money to prop up the very same organisation?

“The government cannot continue to claim to be pro-rural and pro-regional development on the one hand and fund an organisation that objects to such development on the other.

“The time for doublespeak must cease. The public deserve transparency, and rural communities deserve to be free from the vindictive hindrance of a government-funded An Taisce,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.