Only three Agriculture staff assigned to Brexit issues
The Department of Agriculture has been accused of having a "lack of contingency plans" to safeguard farmers and the Irish agri-food sector from a hard Brexit.
In response to a parliamentary question asked by Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue, it was revealed the department has assigned just three staff members to a dedicated Brexit unit.
It also emerged that Bord Bia plans to hire just four additional staff at an estimated cost of €183,000.
"This is appalling when you consider the enormous challenges facing the Irish agri-food sector in the months ahead," said Mr McConalogue.
"It shows that the Government simply isn't putting in place the resources needed to deal with Brexit.
"Secondly, the minister has confirmed to me his department has assigned just three staff members to a dedicated unit to deal with Brexit-related issues," he said.
The deputy said that Minister Michael Creed has "a lot more work to do" to ensure his department is ready to deal with the fallout from Brexit.
"Several agri-food businesses have already been hit hard due to currency fluctuations and the UK is yet to formally trigger Article 50," he said.
"I have been growing increasingly alarmed at the lack of a coherent plan put forward by the Government to deal with the challenges posed by Brexit."
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said there has been widespread consultation at all levels, including two All-Island Dialogues, 14 sectoral events, two plenaries, and more than 1,200 delegates representing industries and organisations from across the country.
"From an agri-food perspective, and given the importance of the UK market for the sector, our demand will be for continued free access to the UK market, without tariffs and with minimal additional customs and administrative procedures, and to keep the UK market viable for Irish producers by minimising the risk from UK trade agreements with third countries," it said.
"All of the department's ongoing activities will continue to be informed by the need to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector."