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Farm Alliance party seeks candidates as Helen quits

February 12th, 2024 8:48 AM

By Martin Claffey

Helen O’Sullivan says she will now run as an independent candidate in the upcoming local elections.

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Bantry woman will run as independent with a strong focus on farming issues.

THE Bantry-based spokesperson for the Farmers Alliance has quit the fledgling political party to run as an independent election candidate in West Cork, saying it had ‘tried to run before it could walk’.

Suckler farmer Helen O’Sullivan had been one of the highest profile members of the Farmers Alliance and served as spokesperson for the past year. Only last month, the Farmers Alliance was registered officially as a political party to stand candidates in the upcoming local and European elections.

In recent months the Farmers Alliance had tried to expand its policies beyond the agricultural agenda, with a focus on areas like immigration.

‘My goal is to be a voice to and for farmers,’ said Ms O’Sullivan. ‘I wasn’t happy with the direction of the party.’

She will now contest the Bantry area in June as an independent candidate. ‘Farmers are not happy with the political parties. We need to focus on food security,’ she told The Southern Star.

Ms O’Sullivan said she had previously been in contact with independent TDs outside Cork about her political future. But she will remain an independent candidate.

The Bantry farmer says her focus is on areas including food production and EU net zero policies and ‘harmful’ agricultural regulations. ‘I was in Brussels two weeks ago and met with farmers from across Europe. They are facing similar challenges. I will continue to develop these links,’ she said.

The founder of the Farmers Alliance Liam McLaughlin would not comment on Ms O’Sullivan’s exit, just three weeks since it became a registered party. But he said the Alliance remained steadfast in its plans to field candidates in West Cork for the June elections.

‘We are currently interviewing for suitable candidates,’ he said, with hopes to have members contesting both local and European elections.

Mr McLaughlin said the party had thousands of members across Ireland. Previously around 40 candidates had been earmarked to contest elections nationwide.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was saddened to leave a ‘movement that I tirelessly worked to create’ but said it was no longer practical to continue ‘due to fundamental disagreements at management and organisational level’.

‘I am not a politician by trade, I am a suckler farmer, but my experience in speaking honestly about the challenges faced by farmers in Ireland has led me to becoming a spearhead for the movement. I have been travelling and speaking at meetings, both nationally and internationally, as well as speaking to media in order to raise awareness of the death by a thousand cuts that farmers are facing here in Ireland. Our neighbours in Europe are suffering the same fate.

‘In my time shaping Farmers Alliance as a political group, I and my team have built the profile of the party and taken it from its infancy to the strong brand that it is now.

‘It is very unfortunate to have to step away from all of the tireless work that we have put in as a team.

‘It is with a positive mind and renewed vigour, that we forge ahead with the same goals and ambitions in mind,’ she added.

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