The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food has said it is taking immediate legal advice regarding the consequences of the European Court of Justice judgment about the publication of EU payments to individual farmers.

The Department today took down its online facility which published a list of what individual farmers get from the EU.

It follows a court ruling that the practice of publishing such information in EU member states is partially invalid.

Details of EU payments to individual Irish farmers have been on the Department of Agriculture's website for over a year. Farmers here described it as a 'snoopers' charter'.

The EU Court of Justice found this morning that publication of individual CAP payments throughout the community to be partially invalid.

The court case followed an action in the German courts by a German farmer and a German agri-business company, who argued that publication was a breach of their fundamental right to the protection of personal data.

The German courts asked that the EU Court of Justice examine the validity of those rules.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said the EU will now have to examine a way of dealing with the issue of transparency for taxpayers, while at the same time not breaching individuals' right to privacy.

The ruling was welcomed by the Irish Farmers' Association.

IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey said the ruling confirms their strongly held view that the publication of payment details to individuals was a step too far and a breach of confidentiality.

Mr Downey called on Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith to take immediate action so that Ireland complies with the ruling.

ICMSA General Secretary Ciaran Dolan meanwhile said European institutions had trampled on the fundamental rights of farmers to satisfy the unjust and unwarranted curiosity of third parties.

He said it was an astonishingly flagrant abuse of the rights to privacy of 120,000 Irish farming families.