TDs react to IFA beef sector lobby meeting

Several TDs were in attendance at an Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) event today, in which the association was lobbying Oireachtas members on issues surrounding the beef sector.

According to TDs, Brexit and live exports were the major talking points on farmers’ lips at the meeting – held today (Wednesday, February 13), at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin.

Many TDs agreed with the point made by IFA president Joe Healy – that the EU would have to commit to supporting Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit – with Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley saying: “Europe would have to tog out for Ireland.

It’s very simple; we now face one of the biggest crises this country has ever faced, right back to its origins. The impact of a hard Brexit, on all sectors of our economy, but particular agriculture, is just enormous.

“There is a necessity from the other member states to support us in this crisis. We’re not looking for it in perpetuity, but it must allow us to address the crisis we face,” the Clare TD told AgriLand.

Fine Gael TD Pat Deering – chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine – agreed with Dooley’s point, noting: “Europe must play on our team, and must compete in a substantial way.

“There’s no doubt that – irrespective of what happens in Britain over the next few weeks – that we’re potentially huge losers,” warned deputy Deering, a TD for the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.

In the event that tariffs are imposed, we’re going to be in a very difficult scenario. The viability of the whole industry would be at stake at that stage.

However, Deering told AgriLand that the Government should wait to see what the exact situation will be on March 29 – the day Britain is due to leave the EU – before deciding what steps are to be taken.

Live exports

Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail TD for Tipperary, explained why the situation surrounding live exports was so important to the IFA members at today’s meeting.

“I can’t understand how we’ve been left in a situation where there is not enough lairage space in Cherbourg,” Cahill said, referring to the lack of rest space at the northern French port, which is holding up live trade.

The only way we can reduce animal numbers at the moment is calf exports. We won’t hit half of the calves we need to export this spring.

Cahill acknowledged that Ireland’s compact calving makes it hard to expect lairage owners on the continent to accommodate Irish animals, because “we’re only looking for it for five or six weeks”.

However, Cahill said that: “The onus is on our semi-state bodies to put their shoulder to the wheel to make it economical for that lairage to be provided.”