Varadkar denies fund for farmers linked to elections
The Taoiseach said his Government has been listening to what beef farmers have to say.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has denied the timing of the announcement of a 50 million euro emergency fund for Irish farmers is linked to the local and European elections.
The European Commission agreed to the aid package for beef farmers after pressure from farmers who say they are facing financial ruin because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, a former Fine Gael minister, made the announcement on Wednesday.
It is understood the Irish Government will be able to match the payment, bringing the total figure to 100 million euro.
Asked whether there was any coincidence in the announcement being made within weeks of the May 24 elections, Mr Varadkar replied: “No, if we could have gotten it over the line a few weeks ago we would have been very happy to, as you can imagine.
The commission has now put the money on the table so we need to now work out the detail of that. But we'd expect that money to flow to farmers in the next couple of months Leo Varadkar
“As a Government, we’ve been listening to what beef farmers have to say. We appreciate and understand that the beef price is very low and that the cost of production is now exceeding the cost the farmers can get from factories, so we wanted to help.
“The commission has now put the money on the table so we need to now work out the detail of that. But we’d expect that money to flow to farmers in the next couple of months.”
The Taoiseach made the remarks as he attended the InspireFest event in Dublin.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) welcomed the decision.
IFA president Joe Healy said: “Beef farmers have suffered savage price losses due to Brexit uncertainty and it is a welcome development that the EU Commission has recognised this and responded to the IFA proposal.”
Members of the organisation have staged a series of protests over recent weeks calling for financial support.
Earlier this month, farmers heckled Mr Varadkar in Cork as they held a demonstration to coincide with the Government holding a Cabinet meeting in City Hall.
IFA national livestock chairman Angus Woods said that while the finer details of the scheme had to be finalised, it was vital that every cent goes directly to farmers.
Mr Woods was due to meet members of Mr Hogan’s team in Brussels on Thursday to work through details of the aid package.