McGuinness called on to ‘make a strong case for family farms’ in commissioner role

Farm organisations have been quick to express their congratulations to Mairead McGuinness, after she was selected as a European Commissioner-designate by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today (Tuesday, September 8).

McGuinness was selected for the role following the resignation of Phil Hogan. She is set to take up the Financial Services, Financial Markets and Capital Markets portfolio in the commission.

There are some formalities to take place before McGuinness is officially confirmed as commissioner. She will have to go before a hearing in the European Parliament – as is standard practice for new commissioners – to examine her suitability for the role.

Nevertheless, farm organisations, among many others, appear confident that McGuinness will get the necessary support to be confirmed as commissioner.

Pat McCormack, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), wished McGuinness well – but added that it is “absolutely essential that she plays her part in ensuring the best possible outcome for Ireland in the Brexit negotiations”.

“Given her strong reputation on agriculture issues, she should also be putting a strong case forward to support the family farm model at the commission table,” McCormack added.

In terms of McGuinness’ specific brief, the ICMSA president said: “Irish farmers would hope that, in due course, [she] might be able to give some attention to extravagant rates of interest that Irish pillar banks routinely charge on farm-related finance and loans.”

‘Very capable representative’

Meanwhile, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) said that McGuinness “has been a very capable representative of Irish interests at EU level for many years, especially in relation to CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] and Brexit”.

Edmond Phelan, the ICSA president, said: “I have no doubt that she will continue to do her utmost to keep Ireland’s perspective on Brexit centre-stage at the European Commission.

“The ICSA looks forward to continuing to work closely with McGuinness over the coming months and years,” Phelan concluded.

‘Strong and credible voice’

Earlier today, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said: “The current turmoil around the Brexit negotiations is proof, if it was needed, of the vital strategic importance of having an Irish nominee at the commission table.

“Mairead McGuinness will bring a strong and credible voice on agriculture to the discussions, which will be crucial in defending our position as the talks [between the EU and UK] head toward a conclusion,” IFA president Tim Cullinan argued.