Ireland

Tanaiste to ‘reflect’ on issues raised by farmers at Fianna Fail think-in

Tanaiste Micheal Martin (left) speaks to president of the Irish Farmers’ Association Tim Cullinan (right) (Niall Carson/PA)
Tanaiste Micheal Martin (left) speaks to president of the Irish Farmers’ Association Tim Cullinan (right) (Niall Carson/PA) Tanaiste Micheal Martin (left) speaks to president of the Irish Farmers’ Association Tim Cullinan (right) (Niall Carson/PA)

Tanaiste Micheal Martin has said he will “reflect” on issues raised by the Irish Farmers’ Association as the organisation stages a large protest outside the annual Fianna Fail think-in.

More than a hundred farmers set up a picket and beeped tractor horns outside the Horse And Jockey hotel in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

Others held banners and flags during the IFA demonstration over a range of issues including frustration in relation to the EU cut in Ireland’s nitrates derogation limit and the plan to delay payments to farmers in 2023.

The planned limit is to reduce to 220kg of organic nitrogen per hectare.

The organisation also highlighted concerns with the design of the latest suckler scheme, issues in the sheep sector, and “the destruction of tillage” through the Common Agriculture Policy (Cap).

Mr Martin and and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue were heckled by farmers as they attempted to engage with IFA representatives outside the hotel.

The Fianna Fail agriculture minister agreed to take a delegation from the IFA into a meeting with his party leader, Mr Martin.

Mr McConalogue told the crowd: “We are doing our very best on all issues.”

IFA president Tim Cullinan agreed to the meeting but told the minister: “We’re at a point of no more negotiations until you’re willing to put the real issues back on the table.”

Mr Cullinan called on Mr Conalogue to get European Commission officials to visit Irish farms and consider the IFA’s proposals for the sector.

He said: “There’s so many serious issues here.

“People have told me this morning they have been waiting for payments, that is a huge concern.

“And the other one, obviously, is the nitrates derogation.

“Remember where you are, here this morning, you’re in the Golden Vale, the heart of farming in Ireland.

“By God, I’m telling you, minister, we’re not going to lose the dairy industry, we’re not going to lose the beef industry or sheep industry or the tillage sector.”

After a meeting which caused a slight delay to the start of Fianna Fail event, Mr Martin described the talks as constructive.

He said: “We listened carefully to all of the opinions from people representing different aspects of farming.”

Mr Martin said the dairy sector will “bear the brunt” of the Commission’s decision to reduce the derogation.

“There is a clear challenge in terms of water quality and obviously the big challenge will be leading into 2026, where we will be seeking a retention of the derogation at 220.”

An IFA spokesman said: “We had a robust exchange with the Tanaiste. He agreed to reflect on the issues we raised.”

Mr Martin confirmed he would reflect on the meeting, adding: “We will see what we can do to alleviate pressure on certain farmers.”