Miriam Lord: The Roaring Rural Independents stand up for the sacred cows

Michael Healy-Rae casts a ‘boo-bonic’ plague on the Coalition

There was a cheery prediction for Leo Varadkar from Michael Healy-Rae on Tuesday as he rated the Taoiseach’s chance of success when Ireland goes to the polls next year.

“The public will have the same interest in you as they would have in voting for the boo-bonic plague.”

A bit harsh, perhaps.

The Independent TD for Kerry says when people vote in the European, local and general elections they will look at a blue shirt and see the Black Death. He obviously doesn’t see the Coalition surviving into 2025.


Kilgarvan is gearing up.

“Fianna Fáil and Fyne Gael have lost rural Ireland,” declared Michael, casting a boo-bonic plague on all their houses. “The Greens never had it.”

It’s all to do with the Government’s cunning plan to instigate a “massive cull” of cattle numbers. Yet, when the Roaring Rural Independents brought this up on numerous occasions in the Dáil, the Taoiseach denied it.

MHR and his colleagues now feel vindicated after Tuesday’s Farming Independent highlighted a Department of Agriculture briefing document on meeting climate targets by reducing the national herd by up to 65,000 dairy cows a year at an annual cost of €200 million.

This proves Leo knew about it all along, the Roaring Independents believe.

Which might be a stretch, given that the Fine Gael leader’s knowledge of grazing doesn’t extend much beyond the more happening bistros and takeaways of the south inner city.

When Deputy Healy-Rae urged him to say something to Irish farmers and the people of rural Ireland, the Taoiseach didn’t jump in to address the concerns of the Roaring Independents, including Michael Collins of Cork South-West, who wants an urgent Dáil debate on the matter as it “looks like” farmers will have to cull their animals or face a fine.

Instead, he left it to Minister of State Martin Heydon to explain that the document is “an options paper” looking at ways to support farmers in the sector to cut numbers.

Martin said the Roaring Independents were putting the bovine wind up farmers and misleading them with this false narrative that the Government wants to force a cull of the national herd and “somehow wants to take cows off people”.

The Minister of State’s words didn’t placate the fuming TDs one little bit.

Brian Ó Domhnaill, the former Fianna Fáil senator from Donegal who now plies his political trade as media man for Mattie McGrath and his rural activists, rushed out an incendiary press release at teatime, after milking.

The headline is a work of art.

“Rural Independent TDs denounce Heinous Attack on Rural Ireland: Government Secret Plot to Massacre our Precious Cows.”

Our precious cows. Our sacred cows. Our holy cows.

Ó Domhnaill went bullheaded for the Coalition.

“In an outrageous display of sheer lunacy, the Government has been caught red-handed in a diabolical scheme to exterminate our bovine population.”

So not only the cows.

Ó Domhnaill seems alarmingly upset by this.

“While spineless politicians obediently acquiesced to the dogma of climate change-enabling legislation in 2021 – legislation that paves the way for this madness – only the Rural Independent TDs had the courage to challenge this abomination.”

But wait. It seems Brian is merely the conduit for group leader Mattie McGrath and his volcanic outpourings on the protection of the precious cow in pregnancy Bill.

Apologies, we are mixing them up with an altogether different campaign in which then senator Ó Domhnaill and deputy McGrath were deeply involved. It’s just that the language employed is so similar in both instances.

Introducing this epic statement, Brian describes how Mattie, speaking ex cathedra and “from Leinster House”, delivered “a scathing denunciation in response to the shocking revelations unearthed by fearless journalists at the Farming Independent through a Freedom of Information request”.

Such courage under FOI.

In his stirring proclamation, Mattie explains how he and his band of brothers (and Carol Nolan) sounded the alarm and warned that the Government’s drive to meet emission reduction targets would “inevitably result in a nationwide cow massacre”.

They stood strong despite being “scorned and vilified by the ruling parties”.

Now, the truth has been laid bare.

“They were conspiring all along to slaughter tens of thousands of our dairy cows.”

This appalling report “even has the audacity to suggest that participating farmers would be banned from breeding ruminants on their own land”.

Furthermore, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue unveiled plans earlier this year “for a controversial dairy exit programme targeting farmers”.

Ah jaysus, Charlie. Not euthanasia. Just let them take the grants.

This “merciless eradication” of more than 60,000 cows a year over the next three years ignores the devastating consequences this will inflict on hardworking farmers, people working in food production and the overall rural economy, Mattie points out as he winds up for the big finish.

It does not disappoint.

“We, the Rural Independent GDs, unequivocally condemn this monstrous blow against rural Ireland by the Government. We stand united in our unwavering resolve to fight for the rights of farmers, the preservation of our agricultural heritage and the safeguarding of our rural communities. The Government’s sheer and utter insanity must be exposed, and we will not rest until justice is served for the countless hardworking individuals.”

Martin Heydon, reflecting the view of his senior Minister, said the document in question was not a final policy decision. “We have always been very clear about options, and supporting farmers in those options and supporting them financially to make the best decision for themselves,” he said.


Maybe the Government could buy them all from the farmers in exchange for magic beans which it could use for the national children’s hospital. It hasn’t gone away, you know. It hasn’t been finished either.

And the final cost keeps going up, as the Dáil heard for the umpteenth time.

Mary Lou McDonald mentioned it. How long is the saga going now? Twelve years or so? Does the Minister for Health have an idea of the final cost, because she heard he did.

Alas, no.

“We’ve all known for some time that the cost was going to go above the €1.4 billion… The sums of money involved are large. I don’t have a figure and Government – nobody has a figure,” Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said in reply.

Everything is just fiendishly complicated.

“No one is trying to be difficult.”

Oh, and if there is any money left over from the hospital fund, perhaps it should be used to buy Brian O’Domhnaill a new thesaurus, because he’s exhausted the one he has.

God bless our precious cows.