Rural communities lack confidence in the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity and believe it will undercut rural activities such as farming, a TD has claimed.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice called on the assembly on biodiversity to provide the public with a mid-term statement of its intentions.

“The Citizens’ Assembly must come clear on its intentions and provide those who it nominally serves, the people, a statement on its progress and expectations,” he argued.

“Confidence among rural communities is very low when it comes to this group. They suspect that it has actually been set up to undercut rural activities such as farming and turf cutting.”

The Roscommon-Galway TD called on the assembly to “explain what it means” by examining threats presented by biodiversity loss; opportunities to reverse this loss; the main drivers of biodiversity loss; their impacts; and the opportunities for addressing these drivers.

“Many rural people, independent TDs and even government TDs now suspect the assembly is a Trojan horse set up to soften up rural Ireland for another series of Green Party attacks,” he claimed.

Fitzmaurice added: “They are deeply concerned that a small group of a hundred people can set the agenda for entire swathes of the country.

“I thought we elected TDs and governments do this but apparently not.

“Rural Ireland wants to know who will be advising these hundred people… Will the advice be genuinely independent?” he asked.

The independent deputy argued that the assembly “needs to be clear and transparent on who they plan to hire as advisors, and why”.

He argued that an attempt to “corral” rural people into an “agenda” set by environmental lobby groups “will be fiercely opposed”.

“The people who practice are tired of being talked down to by those who are only fit to preach.”

Fitzmaurice stressed that the Citizens’ Assembly “has a responsibility to be fair and impartial”.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity comprises 100 members, including a chairperson and 99 randomly selected members of the public.