My '14 wish - reset the moral compass of those in power
A new year, a fresh start; the traditional time for making resolutions. Well, I'd like to add my tuppence and make some suggestions of what I would like to see happening in the year ahead, which admittedly is a bit of a wish-list ... but here's hoping.
The Oxford English dictionary declared its word of 2013 as "selfie", taking a photo of oneself. If the Department of Agriculture was to take a selfie today, what would it see? A benign patriarch trying to get the best out of its children by encouragement and leadership or a stern presence always on the lookout for opportunities to criticise and undermine?
Several canvassers who travelled the country in the recent IFA election spoke of a creeping sense of anger and unease which seems to have taken hold of farmers. This is somewhat surprising given the relatively buoyant product prices.
So what is the cause of this angst?
Could it be the increasingly hard line attitude which the Department appears to be adopting towards farmers, its customers? In saying this, I want to clarify that many, many Department personnel conduct their business not just in a professional, but in a genuinely humane manner. This is an issue of corporate attitude, systems and use of language.
One-third of Irish farmers, including ourselves, were sent out letters by the Department about map irregularities under its controversial land parcel eligibility review. I would contend that most discrepancies are just down to more accurate mapping. And how come when a farmer appears to have made a mistake, the automatic response is to reach for the penalty gun yet when the Department does, its a clerical error?
But what really infuriates farmers about being pursued for the smallest, often inadvertent, deviations and minute amounts of money is that high-profile misdemeanours pass by without any consequences in this country.
On a radio poll over the festive season, the Central Remedial Clinic salary top-ups was voted by listeners as the lowest of the country's lows of 2013. The also-ran list included the Anglo tapes.