Varadkar says Green MEP’s letter about loans to farmers ‘worse than I thought’

Varadkar says Green MEP’s letter about loans to farmers ‘worse than I thought’

Speaking at a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Mr Varadkar sought to defuse anger from his own TDs and senators over the letter sent by MEP Ciarán Cuffe. Picture: Damien Storan.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said a letter from a Green Party MEP calling on banks not to lend money to young farmers was “worse than I thought”.

Speaking at a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Mr Varadkar sought to defuse anger from his own TDs and senators over the letter sent by MEP Ciarán Cuffe.

Mr Cuffe wrote to banking bosses last month outlining his concern about large loans being approved for young farmers to increase their herd.

It is understood the letter queried bank lending practices, as well as a reference to their continued investment in a sector that is carbon-intensive.

Mr Varadkar was said to have queried why Mr Cuffe focused on farmers, but did not mention petrol stations, coal businesses, or mines.

Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

At the meeting, junior minister Martin Heyden expressed frustration at the letter and criticised the Green Party for “not taking responsibility" for its contents.

The Tánaiste said he spoke to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who informed him it was not party policy to address banks on such issues, but rather “an MEP stating what he thought”.

There was also a discussion at the parliamentary party meeting about Covid-19 restrictions for hotels and weddings.

Junior minister Patrick O'Donovan told the meeting that he thought the Covid cert should be brought in for wedding guests who are currently exempt.

It is understood Mr Varadkar said he thought it was something that should be looked at.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told a private Fianna Fáil party meeting that every effort is being made to get the booster vaccine delivered and scale it up across the board.

He said advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on giving vaccines to children is welcome, and the HSE will prioritise the rollout of this with the ongoing booster programme.

Mr Martin also said the economy is recovering faster than any other in the EU.

He said the budget deficit is set to be much smaller than forecast, and one of the smallest in the EU. 

“Our prudent management of the public finances gives us the fiscal room to manoeuvre to support people, communities and our society,” he said.

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