THE country’s new Minister for Agriculture and the Marine is Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen.
But outside of being the brother of the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, not many people in West Cork are too familiar with the former auctioneer who comes from a strong political dynasty.
It was widely felt that the farming community had faith in the outgoing minister Michael Creed, but as was expected, the Macroom man lost the portfolio.
Now with so many important issues coming down the line for the sector, including negotiating the new CAP agreement, Brexit, and an extension to derogation, local farmers say they are hoping the man from the midlands is up to the job in hand, given the crucial role he has to play.
The IFA have already said he has a ‘huge task’ ahead of him.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
• He’s a 52-year old married father of four from Clara, Offaly, who has worked as an auctioneer.
• He was first elected to Offaly County Council in 1991 where he served until being elected to the Dáil in the 2011.
• He took the seat vacated by his brother Brian, who stepped aside before the 2011 general election.
• Positions he’s held include frontbench spokesperson on environment and local government in July 2012 and frontbench spokesperson on social protection in March 2011.
• He was dragged into the FF ‘votegate’ controversy last year over Fianna Fáil TDs voting for colleagues when they were outside of the chamber, but was ultimately cleared of any wrong-doing.
• In an interview in 2017 he spoke of getting life-saving medical treatment for an on-going health ailment. He spent four weeks in hospital and was out of action for a long time. On the diagnosis, at the time, he said: ‘It would teach you the value of life.’
Speaking on national radio since his appointment, he said: ‘I think the best way in which this government can move in relation to agriculture and the marine, the best future is aligning its production systems with consumer sentiment and environmental ambition, investment in technology and innovation that improves economic and environmental efficiency, and that is the path that we would hope to pave for this sector in the hope that it will continue to thrive and continue to play the huge role that it does throughout the country.’
He has also said he will be keeping a close eye on the greyhound industry and improvements in welfare in the sector.
Green Senator Pippa Hackett has been named as junior agriculture minister with responsibility for land use and biodiversity. She’s a farmer, also from Offaly.
Whatever about the talk of the ‘Munster mafia’ in recent days, agricultural interests will surely be wondering if there is a ‘midlands mafia’ at work in their sector!