‘Problems haven’t gone away’ that ministers ‘should have been dealing with’ – TD Browne

Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne has called on the newly-appointed Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, to “get to work immediately after persistent sidelining of the agriculture sector by government”.

The Tipperary TD has said that the “latest agriculture minister must try to stay in his job and immediately address the series of crises that have accumulated, while the government was dealing with the consequences of its ineptitude”.

“Since its inception, this government has failed the agriculture sector,” deputy Browne said.

“At a time when our farmers needed leadership and certainty, none was forthcoming.

One minister for agriculture after the other fell by the wayside…as scandal followed scandal.

“The problems they should have been dealing with haven’t gone away and now need urgent attention.”

Deputy Browne continued, saying that before Covid-19, “our meat processing factories were allowed to underpay our farmers”.

“The issues within the meat industry remain unaddressed by the government and the Beef Taskforce – our producers cannot wait any longer.

“Covid-19 has shown that these settings [factories] are hotbeds for transmission of the virus, but the government has been far too delicate in addressing the operations of these facilities and workers’ conditions.”

‘Issues that can no longer be sidelined’

TD Browne is a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and has outlined a number of issues that must be addressed by the new minister, in order to “work towards the future of family farms and the agriculture industry”.

“Brexit is still a clear obstacle that potentially jeopardises the future of our agriculture industry to trade effectively,” the deputy continued.

“The Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] needs to be given specific and uninterrupted attention, while supports for environmental measures need to be discussed, examined and refined.

These are just some aspects of a long list of issues that can no longer be sidelined, and the government must now ensure that no more scandals are going to delay matters any further.

The agriculture spokesperson for the Labour Party, Sean Sherlock, added that it is “crucial that confidence is restored for all stakeholders in agriculture”.

“The past number of months has been an unstable time for the sector.”

Deputy Sherlock added that the minister must bring the forestry bill “before the Dáil immediately”.

“We need to provide clarity for those in the forestry sector, particularly in respect of felling licences and also, to provide clarity in respect of the appeals process.”