The Rural Independent Group of TDs is set to introduce a private member’s motion in the Dáil today, Tuesday, September 24, to highlight “the importance of the agri-food sector as a key economic driver of rural development”.

A statement from the group said that it intends to “challenge the Government on its role in the destabilisation in the agri-food sector over the last number of years”.

“Our motion is an attempt to highlight the fact that for the eight years that Fine Gael has been in power, practically nothing has been done to advance key commitments that were made in the Programme for Government,” said the statement.

The Rural Independent Group consists of six members: Mattie McGrath (Tipperary); Michael Collins (Cork South-West); Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry); Danny Healy-Rae (Kerry); Michael Harty (Clare); and Noel Grealish (Galway West).

The group pointed out that among those commitments was one aimed at the introduction of a framework for producer organisations and the development of such organisations in the sector, to ensure “farmers are not just price takers”.

“Yet the reality is, and as the recent beef crisis has made manifestly clear, this has not happened – with disastrous results,” the group’s statement continued.

It went on to say: “If more sustained and concerted attempts were made to shift the balance of power between farmers and processors, then the protracted nature of the recent dispute might have been avoided.

The beef sector in particular is a key driver in the overall economic growth of the agri-food sector. Whatever happens in that area inevitably has a disproportionate impact across the entire sector.

“So, what we are saying is that years of inaction and a failure to support the introduction of equitable practices has come home to roost. The responsibility for that has to be firmly placed at the door of the present Government,” said the group.

The statement added that the group intends to hold the Government to account for its “historical legacy” on this issue.

“We also want to demand that [the Government] renew commitments provided for in the Charter for Rural Ireland which outlined a vision of a ‘dynamic, adaptable and outward looking multi-sectoral economy supporting vibrant, resilient and diverse communities’,” the group’s statement concluded.