Sinn Féin TD and former MEP, Matt Carthy has slammed the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil for his position, or lack thereof, on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

As the final countdown to a reformed CAP commences this week, Minister McConalogue has said that flexibility must be given to member states “in terms of their own national CAP plans, and finalising some key issues” that impact each country’s farmers.

However, in the Dáil this week, deputy Carthy said: “The Minister for Agriculture appears to be the only person with any interest in Irish farming, that doesn’t have a position on the key elements of the next Common Agricultural Policy.

“He has no position in relation to how much should be redistributed in relation to convergence, that’s despite the fact that his fellow spokesperson on agriculture, while in opposition for Fianna Fáil during the last CAP talks, actually organised public meetings the length and breadth of the country slamming the then Fine Gael government for refusing to support redistributive measures.”

The Cavan-Monaghan TD emphasised that it is possible to defend Irish family farmers at both and Irish and EU level as much of the policy, standards and regulations that guide the work of Irish farmers, is decided at European level.

Flexibility within CAP

Deputy Carthy added that the current government signed up to a “really bad” European budget deal last year.

“That budget negotiation, to be generous to it, saw the proportion allocated to agriculture reduced from 37% to 30% and therein lies the crux of the challenges that we now face,” he told the Dáil.

“Despite arguing for flexibilities and for sovereignty, the Minister for Agriculture acknowledged in this house [Dáil] last week, that he has no intention of bringing the CAP Strategic Plan, that will outline how he intends to use these flexibilities… before the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

The Sinn Féin representative has asked the government to now “come clean” on what its intention are regarding CAP negotiations.

Carthy on minister’s position

Carthy criticised Minister McConalogue for what he described as a lack of any position on the key elements of the reformed CAP.

“The Minister for Agriculture appears to be the only person that doesn’t have a position in relation to whether or not there should be front loading and what proportion of acreage should be allocated to front loading,” Carthy said.

“The minister says he supports an upper limit CAP payment – an upper limit in terms of the payments that any single entity can receive – and that he supports that level being at €60,000, but he hasn’t put on the record clearly that he’s going to fight against any discretions or any opt-outs that will allow people to still draw down the obscene sums that we’ve seen in recent weeks.

“He still hasn’t articulated where, if anywhere, he has actually put that proposition to the European negotiations and whether or not he is willing to stall the negotiations a second time, if it means that those people on obscene payments would be continued to allow to do so under the current arrangements,” Carthy argued.

Trilogue on CAP

A trilogue between the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU (in its Agriculture and Fisheries configuration); a delegation from the European Parliament; and the European Commission, which failed to reach agreement at the end of May, will recommence tomorrow (Thursday, June 24).

Minister McConalogue will travel to Brussels to represent Ireland a meeting of agriculture ministers next Monday and Tuesday, June 28-29.