No talk ‘on the ground’ by farmers about a new political party, says Minister

Charlie McConalogue, speaking at The Tullamore Show, says three parties in Government back agriculture ‘really, really strongly’

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said there was no talk “on the ground” by farmers about a new political party and that there already were “a lot of political parties” representing their interests.

Speaking at the country’s largest agricultural show, The Tullamore Show, the Minister said the reality was that the three parties in Government were backing agriculture “really, really strongly”.

Mr McConalgue was responding to recent research from The Irish Farmers Journal that showed three out of four farmers would support a new farmers’ political party if one were to emerge.

Minister of State Pippa Hackett also maintained that a new political party was far from the minds of the farmers with whom she had been speaking at the Tullamore Show where there was a new Sustainability Village exhibition.


Many of the new developments would have been unheard of years ago and there now was a great interest in sustainability, she said. “I think it’s becoming mainstream now, and I don’t think the flak is there. I mean, from a climate perspective, I think everyone appreciates we have to do what we can when we’ve seen another strange year.

“There were people making hay in May, and I’ve spoken to many farmers in the past couple of months, in their seventies, who have never seen that in their whole lives. We’ve had the wettest July, unfortunately, that brings challenges with fodder and saving silage and doing farming every day. I think people are really seeing what the effects of it (climate change) are. They realise they have to adapt and maybe adjust how they farm. But the bigger picture is what we do in the future. I think we know what we need to do. We just need to get going and doing it really, really quickly.”

Irish Farmers Association president Tim Cullinan said he had not been surprised at talk of a new political party for farmers. “I think there’s a clear message here for the Government and that is that the Government needs to listen more to farmers.

“A lot has been happening obviously over the last number of years, in particular around climate and emissions and farmers are playing a part in all of this.”

The Government needed to acknowledge that farmers were adapting and introducing new mechanisms by which emission targets could be reached, but a matter of real concern to farmers was the “amount of bureaucracy that farmers have to deal with now. Call it red tape. What we need is a more straightforward way of doing our business because it has got very, very complicated for farmers on the ground. And that’s why there’s a lot of frustration. And that’s why I say I’m not surprised with farmers looking at other alternatives to the current Government.”

But for Tullamore Show secretary Chelsea Cox McDonald such concerns were for another day. She was too busy co-ordinating the 60,000 visitors to the Butterfield Estate site covering 80 acres with parking for 20,000 cars. Despite the occasional shower, the ground underfoot remained passable with visitors enjoying the livestock competitions, safety demonstrations, equipment displays in the ‘trade town’ along with leisure, food, crafts, tourism tents.

Four young women from the Mercy Secondary School in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath were confident of careers in agriculture. Trása Bracken (18), Chloe McDermott (17), Mary Ellen Colton (17) and Sinéad Bracken (18) were proudly displaying two of the five Angus cattle they have reared on Trása’s father Colm’s farm in Durrow, Co Offaly since last September as part of the Certified Irish Angus Schools Competition.

Their challenge was to rear five calves over 18 months while completing a research project, organised in partnership with ABP Ireland and Kepak. At the Teagasc stand the young women explained what they had learned about the opportunities for producing low carbon beef.

One of the calves has been donated to the local Lions Club’s Hooves for Hospice (Offaly Hospice) fund while the money generated by the sale of the other four cattle is being donated by the girls to Crumlin Children’s Hospital.

The project began in TY year and now Trása is considering a career as a researcher with Teagasc. “I think the project and being at an event like Tullamore Show has made myself and the girls even more interested in careers in agriculture. I think it would be very interesting.”

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter