Minister Michael Creed and independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice had an energetic exchange today, Wednesday, January, 15, on RTÉ Radio 1 over the issue of carbon tax for agricultural contractors.

In a debate on Today with Sean O’Rourke, the minister and Fitzmaurice were joined by Fianna Fáil spokesperson for agriculture Charlie McConalogue. In light of the tractor protest in Dublin and the calling of a General Election yesterday, the minister was quizzed on a number of issues, particularly beef prices.

However, it was the subject of carbon tax – which was increased in Budget 2020 – that brought Minister Creed and Fitzmaurice head-to-head.

Although farmers are entitled to tax relief on carbon tax, agricultural contractors are not entitled to such relief.

During the debate, Fitzmaurice – a TD for Roscommon-Galway – commented: “If you look at the carbon tax, at the last budget we brought an amendment that the contractors, who do 90% of the work for the farmers, would get the tax relief the farmers get, but unfortunately that hasn’t been seen.”

When host O’Rourke pointed out that Fitzmaurice himself is a contractor, the TD said: “There’s more than Michael Fitzmaurice.

I won’t do all the work in Ireland.

Responding to a series of points raised by both the independent TD and McConalogue, the minister addressed the carbon tax issue by pointing out that “an exemption for farmers was secured and retained” in Budget 2020.

However, Fitzmaurice reiterated the point, referring to just how much of the work on Irish farms is done by contractors.

Contractors do 90% of the work. They will be starting to cut silage next May.

In response to this, the minister said that: “Contractors insist that farmers provide the diesel because of that.”

Fitzmaurice, picking up on this point, claimed that Minister Creed was “being disingenuous” over the issue, and said that the practice of farmers supplying diesel for contractors occurred in Northern Ireland, but was not a widespread practice this side of the border.

When asked by the minister if he had ever taken diesel from a farmer, Fitzmaurice said he hadn’t, and pointed out that a farmer would not be able to supply diesel for contractor work.

You would want an oil lorry behind you.

Getting the final word on this particular issue, Minister Creed asked the independent TD if he had a herd number, and added: “If you have a herd number, you are entitled to you exemption from carbon tax.”