A crowd of over 200 people gathered in Carlow last night, Thursday, November 21, for the last of a series of Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) presidential debates.
Recent splinter groups from the IFA and the ongoing climate debate were two of the issues that featured strongly during the course of the debate.
The first question from the floor that was put to the candidates – John Coughlan, Tim Cullinan and Angus Woods – was what they intended to do to unite farmers under the IFA umbrella.
The IFA member asked the three candidates how they would unite the IFA “to be the force we were and not to divide us”.
Two of the candidates were against the idea of reforming the committee while one was in favour.
Responding to the question, Co. Tipperary pig farmer Tim Cullinan said: “I am not about dividing farmers, no way”.
He added: “If everything was working so well in the livestock committee how come we have three or four groups that have been set up.
“I have done everything in my power to keep the IFA together,” Cullinan stressed.
Addressing the question on reforming the livestock committee, Co. Cork dairy, beef and tillage farmer, John Coughlan said: “I don’t believe the livestock committee should be divided because I’m very clear that we need to be working together.
The difficulties that we have in the beef industry are created by an awful lot of issues. Some here in Ireland, some right across Europe.
Coughlan drew attention to the importation of meat products to Europe, highlighting this as an issue.
Finally, Co. Wicklow beef, sheep and tillage farmer Angus Woods – who is also the current chairman of the livestock committee – said: “I’m proud of the committee and of the work it has done.
“It receives severe criticism on a continual basis. The criticism ramps up every time an election comes round so I guarantee you we will be here in four years time and the criticism will be ramped up again.
The Livestock Committe is is absolutely united. There has never been a suggestion from any of the members on the committee to divide the committee.
Concluding, Woods outlined: “There is an agreement there that if the chairperson is a finisher, the vice chair is a suckler farmer or vice versa.”