“I want to assure the new minister that we, in the Rural Independent Group, will work closely, honestly, fairly and hard with him and with the government to try to rescue the situation in farming.”
“By rescue, I say support. Farmers want to support themselves, but face issues such as Mercosur, Brexit and this year's weather conditions. While it has turned out to be a great year, there will be a difficult harvest.”
Those were the words of Independent TD, Mattie McGrath, as he congratulated Charlie McConalogue, following his appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
“The minister will have our support honestly. There are lots of issues that you have to deal with and is one is tackling the beef barons, tackling MII (Meat Industry Ireland) and the power that they have.”
“Unlike the last minister, when the farmers stood outside the gates all last summer protesting, gave up their summer, looking for recognition for being the sole primary producers of prime beef and to get a decent price.”
He pointed out that Deputy Creed, established a review group with a former head of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine appointed as independent chairperson.
“We need an independent oversight of the beef industry. Deputy Kelly is talking about the need for workers' rights, of course, they do, but farmers, who are the primary producers, do not get any sick pay and have no-one to support them. They have to take what they get.”
“It is important that we support the workers and I support them, and I acknowledge the jobs provided by the meat industry, but there must be transparency and openness there as well.”
He said there are “huge” issues facing agriculture as he made specific reference to “red tap”.
He said forestry is just one, where individuals in the sector cannot secure felling licences.
“We must change this. People have invested hugely in forestry and have been encouraged to do so. A 40-year growth cycle is a long time to wait for payments.”
“Contractors are lined up to cut timber. They have machinery costing up to €2 million. All of this lies idle because of a serial objector. That cannot be fair or right in the country.”
The concerns of agriculture must be recognised, he added.
He believes the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland, FCI, and all the other associations have to be recognised.
“The cosy cartels of, the big farming organisations and the Government, we have seen this too many times.”
“We saw what happened with the distasteful incident in Galway and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his very wise words today.”
He thanked the previous minister, Deputy Calleary, and acknowledged that he “had resigned before the 8 o'clock news the morning after the story broke”.
“He is an honourable and decent politician who saw that he had made a mistake.”
“He did that in good faith, but it was the wrong decision. He has acknowledged that and stepped down."
Video source: Video Parliament Ireland / YouTube