‘It’s about time we had a president who has worn wellies’ – Gavin Duffy

“It’s about time we had an Irish president who has worn wellington boots,” businessman and Irish presidential hopeful Gavin Duffy has declared.

Speaking to AgriLand at the Taste of Cavan festival, Duffy – who is seeking a nomination in the upcoming Irish presidential election which is set to take place next November – spoke of his own background growing up on a pig farm in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

The entrepreneur and star of hit RTE television show Dragon’s Den – who still lives on a farm – believes his strong rural roots have helped him develop a deep appreciation and understanding of on-the-ground issues that farmers face.

He passionately raised concerns over the future viability of some of the country’s more remote rural areas.

What I’m concerned about is this: As Dublin city grows – and that is understandable – I don’t want to see that the rest of Ireland becomes just a theme park for Dubliners to visit on their holidays.

“Rural Ireland is a vibrant community that needs to be properly supported,” he said.

Sustainable farming

He highlighted the “vital role” agriculture must play in the sustainability of rural economies.

We need agri-sector businesses to thrive in rural areas. I really want to support rural areas and keep people living here.

“The agri-sector is still the main engine of the rural economy,” he said.

However, Duffy pointed out that ongoing delays over the provision of high-speed internet access in regional communities is becoming a huge barrier to progress and financial security for some farm families.

“If a son, or daughter, of a farmer wants to set up an online business they need access to broadband. It is crucial that such infrastructure is in place so they can compete anywhere around the world,” he said.

Other presidential hopefuls that have expressed interest in challenging the incumbent President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins include: Joan Freeman, independent senator; Padraig O’Ceidigh, independent senator; Kevin Sharkey, independent television personality; Patrick Feeney, independent and former Aer Lingus employee; and Marie Goretti Moylan, independent and volunteer.

Commenting on concerns over fodder shortages nationwide in light of the delayed spring and weather extremes over the summer months, Duffy said he is aware of how the issue is affecting farmers in Co. Meath – where he currently lives.

At Easter this year, in Co. Meath, we were looking for fodder. It is a very serious situation.

Duffy praised the Taste of Cavan event saying that it is “an excellent expo of indigenous foods”.

“It’s just fantastic. I love supporting this event and of course there are a good few producers that I have backed in the past who are here today,” he said.

Duffy concluded by appealing to the farmers of Ireland in the run-up to the looming presidential race.

“It is about time that the head of state was somebody who understands how it is the farmers of Ireland that drive our rural economy,” Duffy stated.