Wednesday 21 August 2019

Big Phil may give Leo an election 'dig-out' but there's no such thing as a free burger

The European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan (Niall Carson/PA)
The European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan (Niall Carson/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Rural Ireland is fast becoming the winner from the local and European elections.

First the Government put all its eggs in a broadband package that must be delivered regardless of the cost. Now, after months of seemingly endless talk about the plight facing the beef sector, comes the sudden news of a €100m bailout.

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Certainly the farmers will be relieved that after a tough couple of years there is acknowledgment at European level that they need help. However, there's no such thing as a free burger. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commissioner Phil Hogan are really the ones looking for a bailout. Mr Varadkar needs to get his poll figures up in rural Ireland. There is a perception he doesn't understand country life. When he brought the Cabinet to Cork, Mr Varadkar was met with chants about his veganism. He's not a vegan but that doesn't seem to matter.

So he had to create a new narrative for his election candidates to tell on the doorsteps. "As a Government we've been listening to what beef farmers have to say," he said yesterday.

Over in Brussels, Phil Hogan is looking at the clock ticking down towards the end of his five-year term which has come with a basic €2.5m income before you add in the EU perks.

It's no secret he would like a second roll of the dice, but that's in the gift of the Taoiseach.

While he's not believed to have made any formal move, Tánaiste Simon Coveney's name is being whispered around Leinster House as a possible replacement. How convenient then that 'Big Phil' is in a position to give Mr Varadkar a big dig-out with 10 days to polling.

All sides say the timing is a coincidence. But it also just happened that the announcement conveniently clashed with the publication of the weekly 'Farmers' Journal'. Everybody wins - but will the voters buy it?

Irish Independent

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