Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Scrap subsidies for small farms and rich, says O'Leary

Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

CONTROVERSIAL businessman Michael O'Leary has said that he believes small farmers should not receive EU subsidies.

The Ryanair boss said that the financial subsidies should be eliminated for farmers who have fewer acres as they are "uneconomic". He also said that he thinks "very rich people like (himself) and the queen of England" should have their subsidies eliminated.

"I am not a great supporter of the EU subsidies, even though I am a significant recipient," he said on Midlands Radio earlier this week, revealing that he receives between €60,000 and €80,000 for his Co Westmeath farm.

He said that the sum he received was "ultimately wrong", and that it was just "one of the failures of the European Union".

"I have long held the view, that not unlike New Zealand, that we would be better off with no subsidies.

"It'd be easier for new entrants to get into business and to produce cheaper food. But it is not a popular view within farming circles, because they are wedded to these income subsidies," the 55-year-old explained.

Mr O'Leary is from an agricultural background, and now operates his own farm in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

He believes that the EU agricultural subsidies system should be restructured, despite the fact that it is of crucial importance for many Irish farmers. "They should be restructured, but equally, whereas I am not a great supporter of rich people receiving subsidies, I also would be very opposed to very small people who are farming what are sub-economic units – 10 and 20 acre farms – receiving subsidies.

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"Ultimately, they can't survive and they can't make a living on those non-economic units," he said.

He is calling for reform, but is not hopeful of anything real happening, and believes that it should be made easier for younger farmers to "acquire more land".

Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher last night told the Irish Independent that the financial subsidies are available "for a number of reasons", and that "small farmers should be entitled to make a living as well".

"They are custodians of the environment. They need assistance to make a living out of their holding as well," he said.

The Cork native is a dairy farmer and he believes that we also need to be supportive of commercial farmers, as they are "the ones that allow an agricultural industry".

O'Leary will this weekend hold the 12th annual Gigginstown farm sale.

Irish Independent