Govt blamed over farmers' talks walkout

The Government was tonight blamed for forcing the Irish Farmers’ Association to walk-out of social partnership talks after new EU rules limiting the use of manure on farmland were introduced.

The farmers’ group stormed out of the negotiations accusing ministers of bad faith by bringing in the EU nitrates directive as the first round of meetings got underway.

Denis Naughten, Fine Gael agriculture spokesman, backed the IFA and said neither Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan or Environment Minister Dick Roche were taking the implications of the directive seriously.

He claimed the Government had bungled the implementation of the directive.

“Now that the IFA has felt compelled to pull out of social partnership talks because of that, it must finally be painfully clear to the Minister for Agriculture that she has to take the lead on this issue and stop skulking behind the scenes,” the Fine Gael TD said.

The directive, one of a number of measures designed to control pollution due to agriculture, curbs the amount and timing of the spreading of farm manure.

Farmers have claimed it is unworkable and IFA president Padraig Walshe vowed before the talks began that they would be fighting its introduction.

Mr Naughten added: “It is time that they (ministers) started listening to the best practice advice. These regulations threaten the very survival of thousands of farmers and the Government cannot continue to ignore their plight.”

A Government spokesman said the IFA’s decision to walk out had been noted, but declined to comment further.

The IFA delegation left the talks insisting there had been a breach of trust.

Mr Walshe said: “It was bad faith and completely at variance with the positive statements inside the talks and I have suspended IFA’s involvement in Partnership.

“I will not lead farmers into a charade. The Nitrates Directive will hit all farmers hard and undermine the competitiveness of agriculture in the future.”

The row broke out as the Oireachtas Committee met to discuss the directive which was signed into law by the Environment Minister Dick Roche last December.

Its aim is to try and reduce the high level of pollution caused to ground water by agricultural fertilisers.

Phosphorous has been blamed as the biggest source of water pollution.

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