Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Jackie Cahill - The farmers who are in real trouble are the grain men

Tipperary TD and former ICMSA president Jackie Cahill talks farming with Ken Whelan

Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail deputy for Tipperary at Leinster House yesterday.
Jackie Cahill, Fianna Fail deputy for Tipperary at Leinster House yesterday.

Ken Whelan

A self-confessed "poacher turned game keeper", Tipperary TD Jackie Cahill says he is settling in well at Leinster House - though he admits there is a world of difference between agitating about milk prices for dairymen and legislating for the general electorate.

We met after the Oireachtas Agricultural committee took submissions from the farm organisations on the new EU scheme to reduce milk production and on how the matching money from the Exchequer should be used.

"The IFA wanted the beef men to get some of the €11m in extra money", he says with a perplexed look on his face, "but the farmers who are in real trouble at the moment are the grain men. They are having an awful time. They really need help," he says.

This opinion is followed by another pause.

In a previous existence Cahill would have demanded that every red cent should be going to the dairymen, but that was then and this is now.

"There's a real difference between solely representing dairy farmers and then representing all your constituents. But the problems are the same," he explains.

And these problems - farming and political - are numerous and varied.

Cahill's Priorities

Also Read

Cahill's priorities for this Dail - which he believes will run its course across three budgets to 2019 - are standing up for farmers and rural renewal, creating more rural jobs and improving the delivery of State services, especially those provided by the HSE.

He doesn't think the present Government is doing enough for farmers and claims it is the Department of Agriculture which is causing some of the problems.

The inspection regime is needlessly onerous and detailed and causes unnecessary "drudgery and frustration" among the farming community, says Cahill.

Reform Basic Payment

He also believes there is an urgent need to reform the Basic Payment regime to rebalance the scales in favour of the productive farmers, Cahill says.

Extra investment monies have to be found for organisations like Bord Bia to secure premium prices for Irish farmers; he also says a serious U-turn has to take place on the EU's Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) legislation which is rendering large tracts of farming lands worthless.

Cahill is unimpressed with the Government's performance on agri issues, especially at EU level, where he is underwhelmed by the current agricultural commissioner, Phil Hogan.

He doesn't believe Hogan is giving the Irish farmer the backing at Commission level which is crucial if the economic problems within the sector are to be solved.

"He's no Ray MacSharry. When Ray MacSharry was the EU agricultural commissioner the Irish farmer had a voice in Brussels," he says.

What rural renewal

Cahill is convinced that rural renewal has ceased to be a political priority of Government.

He backs up this assertion up with the fact that his home town of Thurles had 14 thriving factories not so long ago and now has only one.

On rural isolation he says that the drink-driving laws - though prudent and necessary - have resulted in many farmers staying home alone every evening rather than going out to socialise with neighbours and friends.

The laws are necessary but the results can be grim, he says.

"They are impossible to deal with; but it's not funny if you have a cancer and a heart condition and you have to wait for six to 18 months to get the proper treatment for your condition"

Cahill then turns his attention to the "state or lack of state" of public service delivery in the country and promptly launches into a critique of the HSE, which he says is not fit for purpose.

They just get on your nerves and the torture you have to endure from them to get a simple answer is unbelievable

"They are impossible to deal with; but it's not funny if you have a cancer and a heart condition and you have to wait for six to 18 months to get the proper treatment for your condition," he stresses.

However, Cahill expects a serious improvement to the medical services in Thurles and Clonmel before he next faces the Tipp electorate.

This may be optimistic, but Cahill knows that health and wealth are what matter to most voters.

Jackie Cahill

The Election Bug

His late father, Phil, gave the young Jackie the election bug when he directed him to stand in an ICMSA election for the county.

"He told me not to say a word about the fact that I was standing for that election and I duly stayed silent only to be told at a meeting some time later that there was a shocking amount of canvassing going on for me," he laughs.

Cahill subsequently rose through the ranks of the organisation to become president in 2005 on the first count.

Like a true soldier of destiny, Cahill is certain that Fianna Fail will be in Government next time round and he has ambitions to be minister for agriculture.

In between he will be addressing all the pressing issues in his constituency.

He is also sorting out a farm partnership with his nephew Thomas - a third-year UCD veterinary student - for the 130ac home farm and the 85-strong dairy herd at Killinan outside Thurles.

And in his downtime, he's keeping an eye on the "few dogs" and making sure they do the business on the track, especially the local track in Thurles.

Indo Farming