Executive will be asked to back Agriculture Minister following CAP judicial review

Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Oliver McMullan has said that the Stormont Executive must support Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill in her plans to spend European (CAP) money if the rural communities including small farmers are to be protected.

McMullan was commenting in the wake of the successful judicial review secured by Northern Ireland Finance Minister Simon Hamilton last Friday, which upheld the view that Minister O’Neill should have taken the issue of transferring funds between Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to the executive, prior to making any final decision on the matter.

McMullan added: “Following the decision at the High Court I believe the Minister is bringing proposals to the executive table and these proposals should be supported.

“If the DUP vetoes the minister’s proposals this will lead to the British Government taking the decision.

“The outcome of this is likely to be no transfer of funds, in comparison to 12 per cent for England, 15 per cent for Wales and 9.5 per cent for Scotland.

“If we have zero transfer from Pillar I to Pillar II then rural communities will suffer, including small farmers and the agri-food industry.

“It is important that we get the balance right in developing the rural economy and sacrificing non-farming elements of that economy will not add to the increasing economy of the farming sector.

“One of the fastest-growing elements is the agri-food sector and this growth will be jeopardised if we do not invest in rural infrastructure.

“Monies from Pillar II also go directly to farmers so if there is zero transfer then small farmers will be severely impacted upon.

“It is therefore crucial that the parties around the executive table support the strategy being implemented by the minister so that we can grow the entire farming sector together.”

Meanwhile MEP Diane Dodds has welcomed the outcome of the judicial review.

The DUP representative said: “This is a landmark judgement which vindicates the stance taken by my party colleagues in the executive. The DARD Minister was wrong to make the decision in the manner in which she did. Our view has now been proved in the courts and the flawed DARD decision quashed.

“CAP exists to support farmers.  The DUP has always stood up for our farmers and holds to the view that there should be a zero transfer of funds from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. By keeping money in Pillar 1 it would make farm businesses more sustainable, productive and competitive. In so doing we would grow our economy and enhance rural communities.”

Pictured Michelle O’Neill, Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister