Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president, Tim Cullinan has said that a letter sent by MEP Ciarán Cuffe to banking CEOs was a “disgraceful act by a Dublin-based MEP, seeking to sabotage farmers and rural Ireland”.

Last week, it emerged that Green Party MEP, Cuffe, had issued a letter to banking CEOs stating his concern about loans being approved for young farmers to increase their herd.

It is understood that the letter raised concerns about banks’ lending programmes, as well as a reference to their continued investment in a carbon-intensive sector.

Banks comment

Agriland contacted the MEP’s office last week and spoke to a representative, but a request for a comment or a statement has yet to receive a response.

Agriland also contacted Bank of Ireland (BoI) and Allied Irish Bank (AIB) regarding the reported letter.

A spokesperson for BoI confirmed it had received a letter from the MEP.

The spokesperson said they are supporting their customers in transitioning to a low-carbon economy, adding that the bank’s Sustainable Finance Fund, launched in 2019, encourages and rewards energy efficient homes, and SME and agri investment in energy efficiency.

A spokeseperson for AIB said it is not in a position to discuss correspondence between the bank and other parties.

But added that it is committing “major resources” to assist its customers across all sectors in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“The agriculture sector is a critically important part of our economy and our society and we look forward to supporting its evolution to a more environmentally sustainable future, in line with government policy,” the spokseperson said.

Ryan must ‘come clean’ – IFA

IFA president, Cullinan has now called on Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan to come clean on whether he supports Cuffe’s actions.

He said that “despite all the guff about wanting to support them, the Green Party are undermining farmers at every hand’s turn”.

“Minister Ryan must set the record straight on this and tell us if he supports what MEP Cuffe has done,” said Cullinan.

He said the IFA will be writing to the pillar banks in relation to the letter.

Comments are ‘arrogant, ignorant’

Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Jackie Cahill, said Cuffe’s actions and comments are “arrogant, ignorant and stereotypically naive in the extreme”.

He has called on the MEP to withdraw his comments and apologise to our young farmers.

The Fianna Fáil Tipperary TD for Tipperary he had received countless complaints from people all over rural Ireland today following reports of the MEP’s comments.

“Let me be clear from the outset, I fully accept that we must adapt our methods to meet our obligations to reduce our country’s carbon emissions. I have never denied that.

“How any small business owner can be expected to modernise without access to credit is a standard example of the environmentalists’ naive views of farming in this country, and the key role it plays in the rural economy.

“To write to banks asking them not to lend to a certain group of people in rural Ireland is dangerous and deeply insulting.

“We are talking here about young people, many of whom are taking over a family farm and providing rural employment, who are looking to build a future for themselves and build a viable business.

“Who is he to tell them they cannot invest in their future, in their family’s future, and in improving the standard of living for many people in rural Ireland?

“Who is he to dictate to rural Ireland and to our young people – to the few young people remaining in rural ireland, to build lives for themselves here?

He said people who share a similar mindset to Cuffe, need to explain how farmers, who want to build a sustainable future and move with the times, are to do that and invest in expensive and modern farming methods while simultaneously being barred access to credit?

“It is both laughable and insulting at the same time to be spoken to and treated in this manner by a public representative who clearly needs to spend some time outside of the comforts of urban Dublin and down in rural Ireland.