The standard of the engagement around the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan was the subject of a brief heated debate in the Dáil today (Thursday, May 26) between agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue, and Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture, Matt Carthy.

Deputy Carthy sought clarity from the minister on whether he will re-engage with stakeholders on the strategic plan before the European Commission delivers a final verdict on it.

He also asked if the minister intends to bring a revised strategic plan before Dáil Éireann for debate.

He also told the minister that the general consultation process with stakeholders and engagement with Oireachtas members were disappointing.

Deputy Carthy commented that by the time Minister McConalogue embarked on his mart tour of Ireland in 2021, the strategic plan had almost reached completion.

Minister McConalogue responded by saying that massive effort had been invested in the consultation process, with strong and meaningful engagement achieved at those mart meetings between farmers, stakeholders and other political party representatives.

And, he clarified that the strategic plan was not completed at that time, as farmers’ views fed back into it, he added.

‘Won’t be taking gib from you’

“There was great engagement from all parties except yours,” he told Deputy Carthy.

He followed up with:

“So, I won’t be taking gib from you in relation to the consultation.”

Deputy Carthy described the minister’s response as “spin”, adding that the place for Oireachtas members to engage with and feed into the CAP strategic plan was not at a mart, but was in the Dáil.

“You were asked to bring it before the house and you wouldn’t do that because you didn’t want the scrutiny,” he told Minister McConalogue.

But the minister responded that the consultation was at a level “that was in depth, like never before”.

The mart tour, he said, put farmers at the centre of the plan.

“It is the role of government to complete the CAP Strategic Plan and it was important that farmers were at the centre of that.”

Opportunity was ‘limited’

The minister pointed out that if Deputy Carthy had been present at the mart meetings, he would have witnessed the engagement and feedback himself. He also said that the deputy and his party had ample opportunity to submit observations to the draft plan.

Deputy Carthy pointed out that this opportunity was limited to written submissions.

“The European Commission saw it [strategic plan] before Oireachtas members and that is a disgrace,” Deputy Carthy said.