Fianna Fáil MEP candidate for Midlands North West Brendan Smith TD says Fine Gael has been utterly exposed after it failed to send any European candidate to a special IFA meeting in Donegal last night.

All candidates were invited to attend the event but neither of the Fine Gael candidates turned up.

Deputy Smith said, “Last night told us all we need to know about Fine Gael’s commitment to family farmers and the agri-sector. It was the last meeting organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association in Donegal, aimed at giving local farmers the opportunity to put questions to their candidates to find out what they would do in Europe for them. The fact that neither of the candidates showed up clearly highlights the fact that Fine Gael has no interest in struggling farmers or rural communities.

“Mairead McGuinness has carved out a reputation for herself as the farmers’ champion and in the past few weeks Maria Walsh keeps insisting that she cares about rural issues. However, neither of them saw fit to travel to Donegal to engage with farmers.

“Last night’s meeting was extremely productive and I plan on raising the issues that farmers flagged with me in Europe if I am elected, and I am committed to continuing to listening and engaging with them to secure the best deal for this vital sector.

“Fine Gael’s record on agriculture and rural Ireland is deplorable. Beef farmers have been struggling with falling prices and rising costs. Their livelihoods have been on the line for years, but it has taken the fear of the local and European elections for Fine Gael to wake up to the crisis in farming. While I obviously welcome any support measures which will improve the lives of farmers, we are still waiting to see the details of the package announced a few days ago.

“Fine Gael could have taken the opportunity to discuss this and other issues with farmers in Donegal last night, however, when it comes to rural Ireland, as always for Fine Gael it is simply not a priority”, concluded Deputy Smith.