Opinion: Farmers have long punched above their weight in the political ring
Downing on politics...
Farmer action and links to elected politics reach back to the era of Daniel O'Connell and the gradual introduction of democracy from the mid-19th century onwards.
It has seen the farming community in Ireland repeatedly make their mark upon the nation's politics.
The Land League was interwoven with the old Irish Parliamentary Party and the league's founder, Michael Davitt, was elected on three occasions to the House of Commons.
The land agitation wrought huge social change in Ireland which was unique among the four countries which made up the United Kingdom.
The scale of the change wrought by farmers' agitation and political lobbying is too often forgotten and/or overlooked.
In 1870, some 19,000 landlords, many of them absentees, had a stranglehold on Irish land ownership. There were over half a million farmers suffering grave injustices on the land and fewer than a third of these had tenancy rights.
Within a generation, a new power emerged with farmer owners becoming the norm thanks to a series of land acts which were won by political agitation by Irish farmers. These land acts, ranging from 1870 until 1903, proved a huge social game-changer all across provincial Ireland.
The very first piece of legislation enacted by the new Irish State in 1923 concerned farming and land ownership. The Farmers' Party also made an impact in the early days of the Irish State.