A GARDA technical unit has investigated the scene of a forest fire in the early hours of Monday morning on land owned by Dorothy Flynn, wife of former EU commissioner, Padraig Flynn.
Fire brigade units from Ballycastle Station and Crossmolina Station and members of An Garda Síochána attended the scene near Ballycastle in north Mayo between midnight and 12.30am on Monday morning after a local sounded the alert.
It is estimated that between two and three acres of forestry was damaged as a result of the blaze, which was swiftly brought under control.
The scene was preserved for a two-hour examination of the undergrowth by a special Garda unit later on Monday afternoon. The affected area forms part of lands purchased at Coolanass, Killala in Dorothy Flynns name in 1998.
It emerged recently that Ms Flynn, mother of Dáil TD Beverley Flynn, has been paid over 87,000 in grants for planting trees on the land whose purchase was investigated by the planning tribunal.
She received 65,378 in afforestation grants in 1998 and 21,793 in 2003. She is scheduled to receive grants on the land, which she bought for 47,700, until 2017.
Under the terms of the EU scheme, applicants for forestry grants had to show they earned at least 25 per cent of their income from farming.
The Mahon Tribunal heard last July that Ms Flynn qualified on the basis she earned 1,100 a year from haymaking on the land, and had no other income. Her total grant entitlement over 20 years is 178,000.
Ms Flynn told the tribunal she had never seen the farm, nor set foot on it. She never farmed it in any meaningful way and did not know who had found it to buy for her.
The tribunal had heard that Ms Flynn was probably the person who lodged the controversial £50,000 cheque given to Padraig Flynn by Tom Gilmartin at the Flynns AIB branch in Castlebar in June 1989. The money was shifted to bogus non-resident accounts and Beverley Flynn subsequently invested half of it on behalf of her parents in overseas funds.
The money was later brought back to accounts in Ireland, which were used to buy the land at Coolanas. The Flynns deny the Gilmartin money was used to buy the land.
The forest fire in the early hours of Monday morning occurred on the eve of a controversial meeting of the disbanded Micheál Ó Móráin Cumann scheduled to take place in Castlebar on Monday night.
The Micheál Ó Móráin Cumann was disbanded last month by Fianna Fáil party headquarters because of continued support for members of the cumann for Independent deputy Beverley Flynn, who was expelled from Fianna Fáil last year.
Members of the disbanded cumann were due to consider their options, including possible legal action, but the meeting was adjourned for a week because chairman of the dissolved cumann, John Browne, had a family bereavement.
Meanwhile, Mayo Fire Officer Seamus Murphy has indicated that the cause of the forest fire will be difficult to ascertain. “In most cases it is just impossible to know. We get them every year. The dry breeze on Sunday, and the week without rain would have brought about conditions where it would be very easy for a fire to start,” said Mr Murphy who has called for extra vigilance on the part of the public when availing of amenities at wooded areas.
Dorothy Flynn was unavailable for comment yesterday.