Mary Lou McDonald visits Co Monaghan
The Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, visited County Monaghan on Thursday last at the invitation of local TD, Matt Carthy. The visit was among the first constituency engagements embarked by Deputy McDonald since the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
The primary purpose of the Sinn Féin keynote visit was to engage with farmers to discuss the ongoing CAP negotiations and other challenges facing family farms.
Irish Organic Mill
The Sinn Féin leader visited the new Irish Organic Mill in the Ballybay Food Hub where she and Deputy Carthy were welcomed by local Councillor, Pat Treanor. The Food Hub is fast achieving an excellent reputation as a best practise food production and education facility providing a welcome economic impetus to the Mid-Monaghan region. The representatives were welcomed to the Food Hub by the CEO of Enterprising Monaghan, Finbarr Daly, and the Marketing & Food Development Officer, Alanna O’Donoghue. The visiting delegation also briefly met with other food businesses based at the Hub.
The Irish Organic Mill is one of the newest and most exciting projects at the Hub. The Sinn Féin contingent were provided with a demonstration of the workings of the Mill by Directors Micheál Rafferty and Mark Gillanders.
The Mill sources only grain from its own certified organic farms and the company is committed to working with nature to produce highest standard Irish grown Irish milled products. It has the potential to provide an alternative product for local farmers that will allow them to become more sustainable and profitable in the time ahead.
Deputies McDonald and Carthy travelled to the farm of Mark Gillanders at Monaghan to see the source of the fine organic production. There they were joined by North Monaghan Sinn Féin Councillors Brian McKenna, Seán Conlon and Cathy Bennett.
There they met with a number of local farmers and received a tour of the farm, which is a perfect model of organic farming, from Mr. Gillanders. They also held in depth discussions about the future of the Common Agriculture Policy and its impact on the livelihoods of farming families and also on the pressures on prices that they face.
Speaking afterwards, Teachta McDonald said:
“It was incredible to witness what farmers and agri-businesses have been able to achieve based on fully organic production methods. The production systems outlined represent a circular economy at its best.
“It is clear to me that organic production can play an important role in delivering climate action objectives but also, crucially, in providing a fair price for our farmers for the food they produce.
“With that in mind, I was disappointed to hear farmers report inadequate support from government and statutory agencies for those interested in entering organic conversion, in terms of advice, educational resources and other supports.
“Irish agriculture has a positive international reputation precisely because of our green credentials and high standards. That farmers aspiring to enter organics are not adequately and enthusiastically supported beggars’ belief.
“The government must promptly reflect on these experiences and present an organics strategy with the necessary vision and ambition”.
Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy thanked his party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, for visiting the constituency and meeting with farming families and listening to their concerns regarding the Common Agriculture Policy and the price pressures they face.
He said: “No area betters exposes government failure to deliver a fresh vision for Irish agriculture than their approach to organics. The current government organics targets are woefully inadequate yet still on track to be missed.
“While the EU is targeting 25% of agricultural land by 2030, the Irish government has set a target to match the 2018 EU average of 7.5%. But, new data shows that the current EU average has already increased to 8.5%.
“Earlier this year the government announced funding for up to 500 new places in the organic farming scheme. This scheme was poorly subscribed to due to farmers anxiety around supports and, in truth, a general feeling that this government is not committed to the organic sector.
“As a result, the government will not add anywhere near the targeted 500 new places this year, with the end result likely being a net increase of less than half of that number.
“Earlier last week the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee heard from stakeholders that an ambitious target would be closer to 12.5%.
“I believe that a significantly higher level of organic production by 2030 is both necessary and achievable. This can be done in a manner that delivers much improved incomes for farmers. There are vested interests in food production that do not want to see such ambition – it appears they have the ear of government.
“The engagement of our party leader reaffirms Sinn Féin’s commitment to deliver the necessary vision and ambition”.
The Sinn Féin president also dropped into the new SOSAD offices in Monaghan town with Deputy Carthy and Councillor Seán Conlon.
SOSAD is a voluntary organisation that works tirelessly to raise awareness and help prevent suicide in Ireland. Their newest office in Monaghan Town compliments the existing centre in Carrickmacross and is on hand to help those in need of support by offering services for people who are struggling with suicidal ideation, self harming, depression, bereavement, stress and anxiety.
The Sinn Féin representatives spoke to the Manager of the Monaghan centre, Margaret McGown, about the invaluable work that she and volunteers are providing to the local community. Deputies McDonald and Carthy agreed that they would pursue with the government and HSE the need for SOSAD to access state funding to ensure continuity of our services. Currently the service is entirely serviced through charitable fund-raising, a situation described by Mary Lou McDonald as “neither fair nor sustainable”.
Sinn Féin representatives
While in Monaghan the Sinn Féin leader also met with the Sinn Féin members of Monaghan County Council and former Dáil Deputy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. She was formally welcomed to the county by the outgoing Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council, Colm Carthy. Deputy McDonald commended Cllr. Carthy for his endeavours during a busy year in the chair of the local authority, noting that his work had been complicated by the Covid-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, she said, he had been a fantastic first citizen who had done his party and county proud.