A senator has said that comments made by Green Party MEP, Ciarán Cuffe have caused “real fear within the agricultural community”.

Two Fine Gael senators have called on the government to issue a robust statement of support for the agriculture sector, in the wake of the letter sent by the Dublin MEP to bank bosses.

In November, it emerged that Cuffe had issued a European Parliament-headed letter to Irish banking CEOs stating his concern about large loans being approved for young farmers to increase their herd.

The MEP has since said that he was “wrong to single out young farmers” when the entire economy needs to work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, has said the sentiments in the letter do not reflect government policy.

Cuffe letter

In the Seanad yesterday (Thursday, December 17), Senator Garret Ahearn said Ciarán Cuffe’s comments were “very distressing” and “have caused real fear within the agricultural community”.

He added that it is a disgrace that the comments have not yet been clarified by Green Party, leader Eamon Ryan.

“It has been Fine Gael’s policy as long as it has been in government that we have been very supportive of the farming sector and young farmers especially.

“Is there any other sector that would see a high-profile politician write to a bank to say it should not give those people loans? Could we imagine if somebody wrote to banks asking them not to give plumbers loans?

“It is just not acceptable and as far as I am concerned; it is an attack on rural Ireland,” the Tipperary representative said.


Senator Tim Lombard said the comments by MEP Cuffe were “totally disrespectful and ill-informed”, adding that “the agricultural industry has never been under so much pressure”.

The Cork senator said that “the farming community has never felt so berated”.

“We are trying to generate a cohort of young people to get involved in farming but a Green Party MEP has lambasted them when speaking about investment. It is a major issue for the industry and this government.

“If this MEP had such views on investment, why did he not say people in urban areas should not get motor loans? Instead, he attacked the rural agricultural community, and it makes no sense.

“We need to dispel the fear that comes from a misinformed MEP who is just trying to play politics with this matter and damage rural Ireland in the process,” Lombard said.

Young farmers

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Frank Feighan said that both the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and he, are ardent supporters of generational renewal and the need to support and encourage young farmers.

Minister Feighan told the Seanad he wanted to assure all farmers that it is government policy to support investment to make farms more economically and environmentally sustainable.

The minister outlined the current range of supports for young farmers in the existing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and at national level, including the Young Farmers’ Scheme, the National Reserve and the collaborative farming grant.