Farming & Fisheries

ICMSA hits out at Holly’s ‘airy-fairy’ dairy comments

March 12th, 2020 11:55 AM

By Emma Connolly

Deputy Cairns is entitled to her ‘bedding in’ time – Ms Calnan.

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NEWLY-elected Cork South West TD Holly Cairns has been criticised by a farming leader for her ‘airy-fairy criticism’ of important dairy export sectors.

Chairperson of West Cork ICMSA Eileen Calnan said she was ‘somewhat taken aback’ by what she called Deputy Cairn’s ‘lukewarm and half-hearted’ support of the local dairy sector in a recent interview on RTE Radio 1’s Countrywide.

She singled out Deputy Cairn’s remarks criticising the export of dairy formula to Saudi Arabia and powder exports as being somewhat concerning, ‘given that the Carbery Group, the trading arm of the local co-ops, have a sizable presence in that area and are notably successful in developing a range of dairy by-products and nutrition consumables.’    

Ms Calnan said that Deputy Cairns was entitled to her views, but that she had to realise that she now represented all the people of Cork South West – and not just those who had voted for her. ‘Obviously in the same way as anyone new to a job or position is extended the courtesy of a “bedding-in” period, the commercial dairy farmers of West Cork are going to withhold judgement on Deputy Cairns’ very lukewarm and half-hearted support of our local dairy sector,’ said Ms Calnan who added: ‘I’m going to assume that this was just a temporary blip.’

She said she was happy to acknowledge her remarks that it was high time that the Competition Authority involved themselves in the question of margins and margin-abuse in the food supply chain.

‘I do think that Deputy Cairns has a genuine interest in Cork farming, but I’d ask her to concentrate a little more on ensuring that they get a decent margin on what they produce – and a little less on airy-fairy criticism of important export sectors that are disproportionately important, precisely because local farmers can’t get decent margins through domestic supply-chains.’    

Deputy Cairns replied that as farmers, herself and Ms Calnan had more in common than they had to differ on. ‘I’m glad that we can agree on the most important thing of all: that farmers must be paid a fair price for their product. What I don’t agree with is the notion that it’s “airy-fairy” to acknowledge that there are many aspects of the way we do things right now that are not sustainable. It’s unreasonable to think the sector isn’t vulnerable and doesn’t need more robust support in the face of climate change..before this election, Ms Calnan said farmers didn’t want politicians who just told them what they thought they wanted to hear. I am delighted to be able to say that that is a promise I will always be able to keep.’

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