Farmers accuse Cowen of ‘obstinate refusal’ to veto trade deal

THE Irish Farmers’ Association accused an Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday of an “obstinate refusal” to publicly veto agricultural cuts proposed by European commissioner Peter Mandelson in the world trade talks.

The IFA has set out 10 reasons why the Government cannot expect farmers to vote yes in the Lisbon treaty referendum. But it has so far stopped short of recommending a no vote.

The association has repeatedly called on the Government to indicate that it will veto any trade deal that is bad for agriculture and the food industry in Ireland.

But various ministers have pointed out that it is premature to speak in terms of a veto at this point when aspects of the negotiations are still outstanding.

Meanwhile, the decision by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association leader Jackie Cahill to recommend a yes vote to his national council tomorrow followed a meeting with Mr Cowen in Tullamore on Sunday.

Brian Coen said later the Government would not accept a world trade deal that is unbalanced and undermines Irish farming.

However, IFA president Padraig Walshe said yesterday he did not accept Mr Cowen’s unwillingness to pledge the veto as a smart tactical move on his part.

“It appears to me the Government has chosen to keep its options open on a trade deal where, unquestionably agriculture and rural Ireland will pay the price,” he said.

Mr Walshe also accused the Government of keeping secret the facts on the job losses and damage to farming and the food industry from the proposed cuts.

He said the proposals would see 50,000 farmers forced out of business, a further 50,000 food processing jobs lost and a €4 billion hit for the Irish economy.

The IFA also claimed yesterday that aggressive pressure from Fianna Fáil politicians and yes vote campaigners such as Garret Fitzgerald and Ruairi Quinn has provoked a negative reaction from its council delegates.

Derek Deane, deputy leader, said Ruairi Quinn is one of the last people in the country that should be ringing up IFA county chairmen telling the organisation how it should vote and how it should do its business.

“I reject this interference in IFA’s affairs. Why don’t Dr Fitzgerald and Ruairi Quinn turn their pressure on the Taoiseach and Peter Mandelson,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, the co-ops umbrella body, said voting against the Lisbon treaty will not benefit the agricultural sector in Ireland.

Padraig Gibbons, president, said the Common Agricultural Policy can be best defended by a country which is fully engaged and committed to the European process.

He said their support for a yes vote is a position that was taken by its board in January, and has not changed.


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