Comment: it’s decision time for Michelle O’Neill
The month of June is almost halfway through and still we have heard nothing form Farm Minister Michelle O’ Neill on the issue of the finalised CAP deal for Northern Ireland. In truth, the time for waiting is over. I overheard a reference made to the term ‘uneasy truce’, courtesy of a CAP discussion entered into by two farmers at last Saturday’s Ballymoney Show. And that’s a pretty good way of summing up the current situation within the farming sectors North of the border.
With Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ian Marshall heading off to China this week, one assumes that the Union will not be taking part in CAP discussions with Michelle O’Neill over the coming days. And with the July holidays fast approaching, this can only mean one of two things: a CAP deal has been done up at Stormont – and it’s simply a matter of timing the announcement – or the Minister has decided to sit on her hands and let the default option kick-in at the beginning of August.
Let’s hope the first option is the one that’s in the offing. Given the rancour that has been at the very heart of the CAP debate here in in Northern Ireland over recent months, local agriculture needs to see both Michelle O’Neill and her Enterprise colleague Arlene Foster jointly announcing an agreed CAP deal, which covers both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 measures. And, for good measure, they should also let us know how they intend funding the Going for Growth programme, published by the Agri-Food Strategy Board over a year ago.
In her defence, Michelle O’Neill has always said that she will not take the default option when it comes to settling the CAP deal. So the coming days will tell the tale of what is really on her mind when it comes to resolving this all-important matter.