President ‘overstepping his role’ with comments on diet, says Kerry TD

‘It’s fine for him writing poetry and fancy speeches, but people who have to work hard need meat,’ says Danny Healy-Rae

It is fine for a poetry-writing president to have a non-meat diet but people “who have to work hard” need protein, Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae has said in response to remarks by President Michael D Higgins at the National Ploughing Championships.

“President Higgins is overstepping his role as President by getting involved in the climate action debate where he is advising people to eat more plant-based food and change their diet,” Mr Healy-Rae said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Farmers in Ireland are producing the very best beef, lamb and pork in the world. It is a bit rich of both the President and Micheál Martin, Tánaiste, being concerned about a shortage of global food security when both of them are trying to cut food production in Ireland. Who do they think they are codding?”

Speaking at the opening of the championships on Tuesday, Mr Higgins said the economic model for farming must change against the backdrop of climate change, adding: “There is no doubt whatsoever, I think, that you are going to see big changes in diet.”


The Government has separately drawn criticism from farmers over changes to the European Union nitrates derogation which lobby groups say will lead to herd reductions.

Adding to his statement on Wednesday evening, Mr Healy-Rae said: “It’s fine for him [the President] writing poetry and fancy speeches, but people who have to work hard need meat.”

He said truck drivers, farmers and most hard-working people needed pork, beef and lamb as well as dairy to perform their tasks.

“The more pressure on them, the more they will have to eat substantial meals,” he added.

The second day of the ploughing championships at Ratheniska, Co Laois, drew a crowd of 71,800 people.

The “most appropriately-dressed lady and gentleman competitions” at the mud-soaked site were won by Róisín Fennin from Co Kildare and Dáithi Fitzgerald from Co Kerry respectively.

Wednesday also saw hundreds of attendees break what was billed as the Guinness world record for the greatest number of wellington boots being thrown simultaneously.

Eilean Houlihan, president of Macra na Feirme, which organised the event, said 995 people, including the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, took part.

The former record was registered at the Holsworthy and Stratton Show in Holsworthy in the UK in 2018, where 792 took part in the wellington throwing.

Macra na Feirme recruited people from the walkways of the event site. One of these was Rose Connolly, from Co Tipperary, who said she had never been part of a world record attempt before. “It’s a good bit of craic,” she said.

Announcing the record-breaking feat, Macra na Feirme said: “At the signal, participants launched their wellington boots into the air in unison. Hundreds of wellingtons flew through the air, which was a sight to behold in itself.”

Macra has adhered to the Guinness World Record rules for record attempts and will submit its evidence to Guinness World Records to have the attempt verified, the organisation added.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist