Calleary interview: Brexit, Cowen and the department outside Kildare Street

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Dara Calleary has warned that Brexit has to be sorted “very quickly” to avoid a cliff-edge scenario for Irish agriculture in 2021.

In his first ministerial sit-down interview with a farmer-focused media outlet, Minister Calleary discussed a range of topics with AgriLand editor Jim Breen and news journalist Sylvester Phelan.

Also Read: Calleary on ‘active farmers’: ‘I’m all about rewarding risk-takers’

Speaking to AgriLand on Tuesday, July 21, the new minister discussed the potential impact of Brexit, as well as other topics, such as his predecessor Barry Cowen, and the importance of an “all-island approach” to agriculture – north and south.

On Brexit, do you think we are potentially facing a cliff edge in terms of access and tariffs at the end of the year?

Minister Calleary: There’s massive work going on at EU level to avoid that cliff edge.

Simon Coveney and his team [in the Department of Foreign Affairs] are working incredibly hard and we will work with them here. The Taoiseach is working incredibly hard as well, so it’s an all-of-government approach that’s consistent with the approach of 2016.

I think, with Covid-19, the fact that we are past mid-July now means we have got to get this sorted very quickly. It’s struck me how very few people are talking about it.

It’s coming at us very quickly, so we have to be ready.

Was there a media witch-hunt against the previous minister [Barry Cowen]?

Minister Calleary: I’d rather not be here in the circumstances that I’m here, though I love the job. Barry [Cowen] is a really good guy and was working very hard in this department. I wish him well.

Do you feel there is anything that the farming media should be highlighting more…or that should be talked about?

Minister Calleary: I’ve only been in here a week, but we’ve already had a lot of meetings.

I’m excited by the opportunities that are here. There are a lot of challenges, but there are [also] huge opportunities here.

There is a massively impressive team here who are hungry for the success of the sector…and for everybody involved in the sector.

I look forward at some stage to getting around the country and meeting the teams in the department around the country. It’s decentralised, which is appropriate.

That’s something that I have championed – decentralisation. Agriculture doesn’t happen solely in Kildare Street; this is all-island.

That’s very important to me; it’s an all-island approach. I welcome the fact that that we’re going to have the North-South Ministerial Council up and running again. I think agriculture has a lot to gain from an all-island approach as well.

I have no doubt there will be tough days but I am really up for it.