Coughlan insists blame for closure lies with Brussels
TANAISTE Mary Coughlan yesterday insisted she was not to blame for the use of out-of-date figures to justify the closure of the Irish sugar industry.
Ms Coughlan claimed a damning European report on the Greencore sugar plant did not lay the blame for its closure at the Government's door.
She said the blame lay with the EU Commission.
The Tanaiste was Minister for Agriculture when the plant in Mallow, Co Cork closed in 2006, with the loss of 240 jobs.
It pulled out after a restructuring of the EU sugar sector following world trade rulings and a drive to make the industry more competitive.
But in a highly critical report, the European Court of Auditors yesterday insisted the closure may not have been necessary.
It said the EU Commission had used out of date data from 2001 to inform its position and had not taken account of changes within Greencore.
Speaking in the Dail, Ms Coughlan defended her position as the opposition said the report showed she had failed to keep the plant afloat.
"The Court of Auditors has reflected on the commission's, not the Irish Government's, decision. This is a criticism of the European Commission," she said.
"In 2006, there was a restructuring of the sugar regime arising from the World Trade Organisations (WTO) negotiations with which all Members are familiar.
"Second, as then Minister for Agriculture and Food, I opposed the commission's proposals, as the members will be aware, and led the group of 14 in its opposition to that reform."