RTE's Ella McSweeney branded ‘farmer basher’ on Twitter following comments on the quality Irish food

Ella McSweeney. Photo: Sunday Independent
Ella McSweeney. Photo: Sunday Independent
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

RTE broadcaster Ella McSweeney has been accused of being a ‘farmer basher’ on Twitter following comments she made on the quality and affordability of Irish food produce.

The Ear to the Ground presenter stated in a tweet that Ireland is “effective at exporting beef and dairy (altho at e’mental cost); very poor at producing healthy, affordable variety of Irish foods for domestic market”.

Irish farmers replied in outrage to the presenter’s tweet with one dairy farmer Martin Crowe stating he was “frustrated with farmer bashing.”

“Jeez Ella, so many things wrong with that tweet "affordable variety of Irish foods". Which do you want variety of Irish food or affordable food? The latter requires the farmer to produce cheap food under the cost of production. The former requires a good price to develop,” said Mr Crowe in the tweet.

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“You give the impression what we produce is unhealthy food here in Ireland and export it around the world, dairy and beef the 2 main staples for humans through centuries, I am missing something obviously.”

Chairman of the Fresh Milk Producers group Jim Mulhall also tweeted a claim that Ms McSweeney was “pandering to the Irish media” and that her comments “offended” Irish farmers.

“You said it's not healthy, and perhaps not affordable. Which offends me slightly too tbh. Irish dairy has the lowest carbon footprint in Europe. Irish beef not far off. No need to pander to the rest of Irish media blaming ag for environmental challenges.”

This comes as RTE is running a special RTE on Climate series of programmes and news feature content across all platforms dedicated to discussing climate change and the environment.

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IFA President Joe Healy also added a tweet under McSweeney’s comments of a EuroStat survey “highlighting the spend in Ireland at just 9.2pc of average household income for food that’s produced to top standards from farmers that are the most carbon-efficient dairy producers and in the top five for beef in the EU.”

Ms McSweeney defended her comments on the social media platform urging farmers not to “twist her words”.

“I didn’t say it wasn’t safe, don’t twist my words, nor did I say it’s anything to do with farmers. Of course, it’s not their fault - it’s the food system that is the issue with far too many imports.

“Over half of veg farmers have given up in the past 15 years. There’s been a reduction in number of liquid milk suppliers. The system doesn’t appear to allow for diversification that feeds domestic market with variety of healthy, affordable Irish foods. Overall? Demise of small family farmer.”

Ms McSweeney continued that:

“I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but a farmer basher ain’t one of them. My tweet wasn’t anything to do with pointing at farmers - it’s about a system of food production that is dysfunctional.”

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