Farmer seeks to be on Fianna Fáil ticket for Europe

A farmer who started the campaign to have farmers compensated for loss of income due to a ban on agricultural activity in hen harrier conservation areas has declared his interest in running as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the next European Parliament elections.

Jason Fitzgerald hopes to stand in the four-seat Ireland South constituency in 2019, but stressed that he is not targeting the seat of sitting MEP Brian Crowley, who has been unable to attend parliament since 2014 due to ill health. He is instead hoping to take a second seat for Fianna Fáil.

Mr Fitzgerald made his pitch at Fianna Fáil’s Cork North West AGM on Monday.

He said his experience of dealing with Europe on behalf of Irish Farmers with Designated Lands (IFDL), of which he is chairman, had shown him that Europe was prepared to engage with community groups.

I set up the IFDL in 2014 with the aim of sorting out anomalies between Europe and officials in this country in terms of designated lands,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said they had brought about positive changes for farmers: Last December the €25m Hen Harrier Programme opened for applications, a scheme funded through the Rural Development Programme and targeted at farmers with designated land.

He said he believed “one of the biggest failings in the system is that not enough community groups are facilitated to go to Europe and share their problems”.

Mr Fitzgerald said that if he did ultimately run for Fianna Fáil, he would hope to “fully utilise the EU and avail of initiatives that are out there”, which he felt was not always currently the case.

He ran unsuccessfully for Renua in Cork North West in the 2016 general election. He said had he moved to Fianna Fáil because the party had greater grassroots involvement.

Whether Fianna Fáil endorses him as an Ireland South candidate remains to been seen.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said it will consider and decide a strategy for the constituency “in due course”.

In the 2014 European Election, Mr Crowley topped the poll for Fianna Fáil in Ireland South, garnering 27.42% of the vote. However, the party failed to take a second seat, which was attributed to failure to manage Mr Crowley’s vote-getting ability.

Mr Crowley has yet to confirm whether he intends to run in 2019.

Separately, Fine Gael senator Colm Burke has been selected to contest the next general election for his party in Cork North Central, securing 236 of 302 first preference votes at a selection convention on Monday.

Mr Burke, who defeated three other candidates, will defend on behalf of his party, the seat vacated by Dara Murphy.

Mr Burke said a key issue for him will be ensuring Cork gets a new hospital, as already pledged by the Government.

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