Opinion: Hogan takes a leaf from the MacSharry book on CAP refrom
Downing on politics
It took Ray MacSharry 50 hours of marathon negotiating in May 1992 to get the 12 EU Member States to agree a fundamental shift in the thrust of the Common Agriculture Policy.
Now, a quarter of a century later, another Irish EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, has taken the first tentative steps on another journey to make very basic changes to the European Union's oldest and most complete policy.
There are similarities between the two Irish politicians. Both are straight talkers who have not shrunk from tough battles.
MacSharry drove through tough Budgets in 1987 and 1988 which are credited with beginning to fix the crocked Irish economy. Phil Hogan's name was closely linked with the local property tax and domestic water charges.
The Common Agriculture Policy has been central to the various manifestations of the EU since 1962. It was the product of the chaos of the immediate post-World War II era.
But from as early as 1968, under another trailblazing Agriculture Commissioner, Sicco Mansholt of Netherlands, there were attempts to rein it in. Mansholt's aim was to reduce the numbers working in farming and amalgamate holdings.
A much diluted version of the Mansholt blueprint was adopted just before Ireland joined in 1972 and a trend of change was set for future decades. The CAP had some serious image problems in the 1980s with 'butter mountains' and 'wine lakes', and this drove moves towards curbing production and making more direct payments to farmers.
MacSharry's moves, announced in 1991, took radical steps towards decoupling farm incomes from production. It took some political will to drive it through at those talks - stretched over three days in May 1992 - and it started a trend echoed in all CAP changes ever since.