Government TDs have been accused of hypocrisy by castigating An Taisce over its objections to Glanbia’s cheese plant in Belview while still voting for the Climate Bill.
Independent TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Mattie McGrath accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil deputies of seeking to curry favour with farmers by lambasting An Taisce, but they pointed out that none of either party’s deputies voted against the Climate Bill in the Dáil last week.
Just 12 TDs voted against the Climate Bill, despite growing concern among rural deputies in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil regarding the implications of the legislation. Sinn Féin voted with the Government.
“The Taoiseach Micheál Martin was caught speaking out of both sides of his mouth. At the beginning of the week, he condemned An Taisce in the Dáil – and then he was happy to bring in a Climate Bill that will paralyse rural Ireland,” Fitzmaurice claimed.
He accused the Taoiseach of seeking to “hoodwink rural people that he is on their side with his comments about An Taisce”.
“I hope those living in rural Ireland can see that the Taoiseach was just trying to appease voters with his comments in the Dáil,” Fitzmaurice added.
McGrath accused both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of not standing up to the Green Party and of “abandoning rural Ireland”.
“They bought into a Programme for Government with the Green Party, and it’s a case of to hell with the farmers now,” McGrath said.
Backbenchers in both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have expressed concern over the implications of the Climate Bill.
One Fine Gael source told the Farming Independent that the party’s rural Oireachtas members had expressed “serious misgivings” around the impact of the bill. They are seeking further information on the legislation this week.
The source said the question of “carbon leakage” had been raised by a number of parliamentary party members.
A senior Fianna Fáil deputy said that while there was no trust of what he described as the “Green agenda”, voting against the Climate Bill could be likened to “going against motherhood”.
However, he predicted that the Climate Bill would face a tougher passage through the Dáil when specific proposals and measures are outlined.
The Office of the Taoiseach did not respond to Fitzmaurice’s comments when contacted by the Farming Independent.
A Fine Gael spokesperson defended the right of its deputies to comment on the An Taisce action, which the party described as a “major blow” to the dairy sector. However, the spokesperson did not respond directly to the accusation of double standards.
Political unease at the implications of the Climate Bill, and the potential for draconian emissions cuts, is mirrored across the agricultural sector.
Both the IFA and ICMSA have expressed alarm at the provisions of the bill for farming, both in terms of livestock numbers, particularly on intensive farms, and long-term land-use considerations.
Serious concerns have also been expressed by Teagasc director Prof Gerry Boyle that farming’s role in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is not being fully recognised or rewarded.