The recent appointment of Michael Creed as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine came as a surprise to many, not least to the Cork North-West TD himself.
“It really came like a bolt out of the blue,” said Mr Creed.
“It was an absolute surprise. Back in 2011 and again during the cabinet reshuffle, there had been some media speculation that I might be in line for the post. But not this time.
“I am of course honoured and I am challenged with my appointment, and I am 100% committed to doing the job I have been asked to do.
“I have a farm family background and I have a political background, and I’m happy with what I’m bringing to the table.”
The minster is also adamant that his commitment to constituents remains the same.
“I wouldn’t hold the position I have, were it not for the faith my constituents have invested in me, and I am very anxious to ensure that my level of commitment to them and to their needs will not be diminished in any way.”
“And I am also conscious that there are a whole host of people now who have a legitimate expectation to meet with the Minister, and I’m not going to let them down. It really is all about getting the balance right.”
His ministerial appointment was greeted with great delight by Michael’s father, 92-year-old Donal Creed, who was a TD from 1965 to 1989, before Michel took over in the political field.
But long before national politics ever held sway over the Creed family, farming was there. Donal milked cows in the 1950s on the farm still owned by the Creed family near Macroom town.
Donal showed entrepreneurial skill by not only supplying milk to his local creamery, but also supplying milk to his neighbours and to Macroom Hospital. Milk deliveries were made back then by horse and cart.
Farming was Donal’s sole occupation until he entered politics in 1963, winning a Dáil seat in 1965 and holding onto it up to 1989, when Michael took over.
Michael had left college in 1985 to become a full-time famer, milking 50 cows on the family farm for the greater part of ten years.
“I was in my 20s at that stage,” said Mr Creed. “And when you are in your 20s, you can begrudge the time that the cows require, morning and evening, seven days a week.
“But I did enjoy it. And I often wonder should I have left it? I know dairy farmers who will read this today, given the prices they are receiving and the current environment, will remark, ‘That’s easy for him to say’.
"But as a lifestyle choice, farming is second to none. Having said that, I can appreciate that lifestyle alone doesn’t put bread on the table.
“One of my earliest farming memories was being kept at home from primary school, so that I would go to the mart to sell some store cattle. My father would have been in the Dáil at the time.
“I remember hardly being able to peer over the door of the seller’s box, to where the auctioneer would be sitting. I would have a piece of paper, given to me from home, on which was written the prices that the cattle were allegedly worth.”
It was up to young Michael then to deal with Jack McGraw, an auctioneer of the old school who spent a lifetime dealing with the toughest of cattlemen. It was a good start in the world of tough negotiations for a future minister.
“One of the great educations I got subsequently was during my time in UCC, when I used to spend my summers working with Kilnamartyra-based silage contractor Dan O’Riordan. I drew silage for a number of summers with Dan. That was an education better than any college degree.”
What targets and goals has he set for himself as Minister?
“From the start I was very anxious to get a comprehensive briefing from the Department and then to meet with as many stakeholders in the industry as quickly as possible.
"And if you consider this Department, along with mainstream agricultural enterprises, has a marine side and the fisheries industry, the equine and greyhound side, along with forestry, food and a European dimension, there can be quite a bit of ground to cover. But I am anxious to meet with all at the earliest possible date.”
Promotion of Irish agricultural produce is high on his priorities. “In agriculture at the moment, the greatest difficulties rest on the shoulders on those who work inside the farm gate. All commodity prices are under pressure and that is where my focus will be.
“One of our biggest challenges is that that we export 90% of what we produce. Put another way, we are an island of five million, who could feed 50 million.
“We have to find new markets and we are constantly trying to find new markets. The more outlets for produce you have, the less exposed you are if any market deal runs into difficulty.
“Since taking office, I’ve met with both the Chinese and American ambassadors on trade issues, and am hopeful that these meetings will prove fruitful regarding trade.
“I will do my utmost, in my efforts to ensure that the industry comes through this current difficulty and that we can deliver on the enormous potential that we have within the agri and marine sectors.”
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