Minister criticised for selective approach to hearing farmers’ views

Friday, 25 April, 2014

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has criticised the DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA for the selective approach she has taken when it comes to hearing the views of grassroots farmers on the implementation of CAP reform. 

Speaking after the Minister had refused a number of requests for meetings with different UFU Groups across Northern Ireland, UFU President Harry Sinclair said, “I was asked to chair a meeting, specifically on CAP Reform, for the UFU Groups in the Minister’s own constituency last week and I was astounded that neither the Minister nor any of her party colleagues turned up to that meeting. I have also now been made aware that most of the local UFU Groups have requested meetings with the Minister and they have so far all been refused.”

He continued, “While I have been disturbed by what appears to be an overt politicisation of the CAP reform implementation debate in Northern Ireland over the past months, I am shocked that the Minister doesn’t believe that it is either right or necessary to engage with her constituents on the ground.”

Harry Sinclair concluded; “The Minister has commented in the past that she would listen to all views, but it now appears that she is unwilling to meet directly with those farmers who might hold a view which is different to her own. To date, she has not been able to provide the Union with a satisfactory explanation of why she would propose an implementation policy which would result in many thousands of farming families losing over a third of their total farm income, and it now appears that she is not even prepared to explain it directly to the farming families who will be so severely affected.”