Criticism of delay in funds for online bidding equipment for marts

An independent TD is criticising the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue over the delay in providing funding to marts to install equipment to facilitate online bidding.

In a parliamentary question to the minister, deputy Carol Nolan asked if the scheme to provide marts with up to €5,000 to assist with the installation of online bidding equipment is operational yet.

However the response from the minister was that “the scheme to provide support to marts in relation to their ICT infrastructure is not yet operational”.

“My officials are currently examining the details of a potential scheme,” the minister added.

‘Outrageous’

Deputy Nolan has responded to the lack of an operating scheme stating: “It is absolutely outrageous that almost four months after commitments were provided to marts that no aspect of the scheme is currently operational.

Serious questions must now be asked around the nature and reason for this totally unacceptable level of delay. Marts are still suffering from poor broadband connectivity and yet nothing is being done about it.

“How hard can it be to establish the proposed scheme given the limited number of marts in the country and the obvious ability to pinpoint which ones are experiencing the most difficulty?”

No guarantees

The deputy said that what is even more alarming to her is the minister’s reference to the scheme as being a ‘potential’ scheme rather than a ‘guaranteed’ scheme.

“We need questions on the level of commitment that really exists. Are marts being led on a merry dance?” she said.

Minister McConalogue had said: “I gave a commitment to support the livestock mart sector through this package and I am looking forward to seeing the package come to fruition.”

Covid-19 restrictions

Under Level 5 restrictions which are currently in place until March 5, marts are required to operate on an online-only basis, as they have been since restrictions came into effect in late December.

Under ‘full’ Level 5 rules, the guidance for marts is as follows: “Marts [to be] held online with arrangements to facilitate weighing of animals; matching of stock between buyers and sellers; drop-off of animals; and buyers’ inspection of stock in the pens by appointment.”