Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, has responded to comments from a Fine Gael backbencher regarding the party’s performance in Europe.
Deputy Ó Cuív said that during Simon Coveney’s tenure as Minister for Agriculture and President Of the European Council, it would be seen as a major period of failure on a number of policy fronts regarding EU policies.
He commented: “One thing that has become apparent in the last two weeks is that this Minister cannot accept criticism, constructive or otherwise. As soon as people realised the scale of destruction he was leaving behind him as Minister he ran to ground and refused to attend the Oireachtas on four different days which is, after all, the assembly where Ministers are meant to be held to account by their peers, who are elected by the people.
“Fine Gael are worried about Fianna Fáil’s access to Europe. I can assure the Fine Gael Deputy that it is easier to get meetings with senior officials in the European Commission and to get attention for major issues than it is to get the attention and action of Minister Coveney.
“Minister Coveney was the first Minister for Agriculture that failed to get an increase in the CAP budget, the full scale of the cutbacks in the CAP budget 2014-2020 is only now becoming apparent to farmers, many of whom are experiencing up to 10% cut in the Single Farm Payment this year alone.
“He failed singularly to put the issue of a fair return for primary producers on the European agenda during his Presidency. The powerful vested interests in the retail and processing business have not been curbed, there is totally unfair relations between primary producers and these commercial interests, some of whom have bigger turnovers than some of the member states in which they are located. Farm leaders are disgusted with the Minister’s inability to deal with a lack of transparency in the agri-business and retail sector with beef farmers getting 17% less of the supermarket price for beef in the UK than they were getting this time last year.
“The Minister has this week once again refused to even look at the provision of a beef regulator even though industries such as telecoms and electricity, dominated by a few powerful small players, have such a body to ensure fair play in the market.
“A similar pattern has been evident for many years in liquid milk, with the proportion of the cost of a litre of milk paid to primary producers consistently reducing. There was a unique opportunity to put the issue of a fair price to the primary producer on the European agenda and to ensure a re-balancing of the power balance between the primary producer and consumer.
“Minister Coveney also neglected the small print in his EU negotiations, it now turns out that up to half of farmers who have commonage land may not be eligible for SFP anymore, this could leave up to 10,000 farmers or 8% or all farmers ineligible for this basic payment. Over 10% of the most disadvantaged farmers will not be able to participate in the GLAS scheme through bad negotiations by Minister Coveney.
“It is becoming more and more apparent that this Minister is more interested in PR and parading around the world with the great and good and making big and boastful speeches than actually dealing with the day to day practical issues in his Department.
“The fact that farming organisations believed it was necessary to stage an unprecedented two separate protests against the Minister in one week shows that the veneer of action has now being seen through and all that remains inside is the hollow of the Minister’s arrogance and superior attitude.”