If Sinn Féin thinks it’s going to mop up the rural vote at the next election, then the organisation’s hierarchy should think again.

How can a party vying for the highest office in the land not have a policy on the issue that is going to determine the entire future of Irish agriculture for the next three decades and more?

This is the very stance that Sinn Féin is taking, where the future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets for the farming sectors are concerned.

At one level, such an approach makes Mary Lou McDonald’s team look very naive. But in a much more fundamental way, it comes across as being a totally stupid way of managing business.

Sinn Féin and agriculture

If Sinn Féin wants to be treated seriously by the farming and food sectors – and rural communities throughout Ireland – then they will have to do a lot better than coming up with a policy approach that simply sees them sitting on the sidelines.

If Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson, Deputy Matt Carthy thinks that not getting involved in the emissions reduction debate right now and waiting to denigrate whatever policy is finally arrived at, he is kidding himself.

Rural Ireland is already seeing through this policy approach for what it is – an absolute sham.

Trying to tell people that Sinn Féin has been kept out of the loop by the current government on the emissions reduction issue won’t wash either.

This is a party that has an opinion on everything – from the handling of the economy to housing, the future of Northern Ireland, the development of the Irish language and so many more fundamental issues that get to the very heart of state management.

Agriculture is Ireland’s largest, indigenous industry. So for Sinn Féin to, essentially, remain silent on this important issue represents a total abandonment of their responsibilities, where farming is concerned.

Playing politics

Sinn Féin will now be seen as the party that was happy to simply ‘play politics’ with Irish agriculture at a time of the industry’s greatest need.

And for an organisation that has made no secret of its intention to form the next Irish government, such an approach is unforgiveable.

If a party wants to govern, then it is all about putting the national interest first and foremost.

Rather than sitting on the side lines, Sinn Féin should be actively debating the pros and cons of an holistic environmental policy that both recognises the challenge of climate change, but which also puts the future needs of production agriculture first and foremost.

I firmly believe that such a balance can be struck.

Yes, it is possible to achieve the best of both worlds. This is because agriculture is a vital part of the climate change solution moving forward.

No industry plays such a critically important role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, than farming does.

This reality alone guarantees that agriculture can remain a vibrant part of Ireland’s ‘primary production and value added’ infrastructure, while still driving positive environmental change for the benefit of society as a whole.

So what does Sinn Féin think about all of this? The truth is that no one really knows.