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CAP payments misdirected
I write with reference to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed’s recent publicised announcement that he intends to put a ceiling of €100,000 per annum on what any farmer will receive from the annual EU farm income-subsidy envelope to Irish farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
It is speculated that as little as 15% of farmers in Ireland are taking as much as 85% of CAP farm income support subsidies. The question is: how is the situation allowed to persist whereby individuals or corporate entities with significant wealth, either from farming or from non-farming activities, can qualify for taxpayer-funded farm income support subsidies when the original intention of the CAP was to support genuine, environmentally friendly food producers with low farm incomes and to maximise the public-good dividend?
The CAP was never intended to support the likes of airports, meat processing factories, sheikh-owned stud farms, agricultural college campuses, beef barons or armchair farmers that don’t actively engage in farming for a living.
Yet, for years, our own Minister for Agriculture has been doling out a significant proportion of the EU €1.8bn farm incomes-support envelope to those same institutions. Where is the concern for the low-income struggling farm family or for the public good in that?
The average family farm is now struggling to survive in the face of commodity price collapses in all sectors.
Placing a ceiling of €100,000 on the payment that any one farmer can receive so that any excess can be redistributed to those farmers genuinely in need of income support, while a welcome step in the right direction, is not much more than a token gesture by a minister that needs to better address the plight of the vast majority of farmers who receive farm-income subsidies of much less than the average payment of €12,000.
As leader of the newly established Irish Family Farm Rights Group I am calling on Mr Creed to acknowledge that the current system of CAP budget distribution in Ireland is unfair and discriminatory, to stand up to the vested interests and unrepresentative lobbying by groups that purport to represent all farmers but instead lobby for the retention of a payment system that is deliberately manipulated to unfairly benefit a privileged few, and to represent ALL farmers by correcting the anomalies, imbalances and injustices of the current CAP- distribution system as an essential part of addressing the incomes’ crisis on family farms when the CAP is due for review in 2017.
Extraordinary people in Concern
At the end of the year, I want to take a moment to reflect on two women who passed away this year, who were related to Concern Worldwide in two very different ways.
In the last year of her life, my mother, a lifetime supporter of Concern, specifically asked that her collection of clothes, the good suits and coats that she had gathered over the years, be donated to the Concern charity shop in Newcastle, Co Down. As a child she was evacuated to the small seaside town during the Second World War, away from the bombs that struck Belfast.
For her, Newcastle always symbolised a place of refuge and safety. The Concern shop there opened in 1984 to raise funds for the children of Somalia caught up in war and famine in that country. More than 20 years later, ‘the Harrods of charity shops’, as it is known by the women who run it today, has raised over £1m (€1.17m) to support Concern’s work in multiple countries.
My mother’s donation of her good clothes was simply a tiny gesture of support to these extraordinary women of Newcastle, who are part of the bedrock of Ireland’s community network of volunteers who come together to make a difference in the lives of people they have never met.
A few months after my own mother died, Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy passed away. Kay is not a household name in Ireland, but in 1968 she founded Concern along with her husband John. Concern is now Ireland’s foremost humanitarian and development organisation, reaching over 22 million people last year across 28 countries. But it all began in 1968, when Kay and John brought 40 people into their flat on Northumberland Road in Dublin. They sat on the floor, hearing stories of the horrendous famine in Biafra that was going on at the time and decided to reach out to the public, who responded in earnest, and have carried us ever since.
These were ordinary people doing extraordinary things, just like the women who run the shop in Newcastle. It is the individual stories of these often unseen and unsung heroes and heroines, those who have devoted their time and energy to others, that are the hallmark of who we are as a nation.
In these difficult and sometimes cynical times, we need this energy, support and this spirit more than ever. We are at the end of what has been an extraordinarily challenging year. No one needs to be reminded of how tumultuous 2016 has been, but it has been most difficult for the poorest and most vulnerable.
For those caught up in the horror of Syria or the decimation of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, or the slow grinding destruction of farmland caused by El Nino and climate change, this year has been an unqualified disaster.
Despite the turmoil and change, there has been one constant for us: that is the generosity of the people who support Concern. It is this generosity that does justice to Kay’s noble ambition and allows her legacy to live on. My mother might have thought her donation was small. The people who donate, the people who volunteer at the Concern shop and at fundraisers across the country may not know how important they are, but they are vital.
Stay with us and I promise you we will continue to deliver professional, compassion to those that need it most and, importantly, hold ourselves fully accountable to those we serve and to you that support our work. As we enter 2017, I would like to thank all of you for your continued support and I wish you a peaceful and happy new year.
Muslims speak out against cruelty
In the last week, Europe has witnessed a harrowing attack in the Berlin Christmas market, a deliberate attack on worshippers in a Zurich mosque, and the assassination of a Russian ambassador, leaving people in fear and trepidation of what is to come.
IS has claimed responsibility for inspiring the brutal and indiscriminate killing of innocent locals and tourists. This appalling behaviour only serves to widen a wound already cut. The fear of terrorism carried out by so-called Muslims has caused a division in Europe and, as a consequence, such attacks have been used as tools to turn the wheel of Islamophobia.
The Holy Quran clearly states “Whosoever kills an innocent person, it shall be as if he has killed all humanity, and whoever saves a life, shall be as if he saved all mankind.” [Quran 5:32] Indeed those who claim themselves Muslim by violating the sacred teachings of Islam only leads to one conclusion: They are not truly Muslims nor are their acts Islamic.
Yet despite the hate, the majority of Muslims condemn this behaviour, as seen on Twitter and other online media.
As Muslims who believe that loyalty to one’s nation is an essential part of faith, my Ahmadi friends and I will continue to fight against cruelty and oppression with our fellow citizens, regardless of beliefs, gender, and nationality.
Fawad Ahmad Noonan
Housing crisis response a bandaid
There has been a response to the Dublin housing crisis, thanks to a lot of dedicated work, but it is, in the end, a sticking plaster. The root issues have yet to be tackled. It’s important not to see the crisis as a Dublin phenomenon. Here in Co Wexford, there was a waiting list of 47 for the only men’s hostel, at the last count, while, nationally, Simon has reported a 26% increase in its caseload. It seems clear, then, that the current housing strategy is not working. How could it? It’s tired, muddy, thinking, rather than dynamic, creative thinking.
We must make a radical shift away from market-driven, mortgage-led, private housing, towards the more inclusive, and harmonious, concept of community housing, built, perhaps, by regional construction units. We might also usefully shift focus from two storey, three-bed, houses, to three storey, five-bed, houses, which will give people room to breathe, and grow, and eliminate the problematic ‘starter home’ pile up.
The particular housing needs of single people must also be addressed. Apartment complexes with large communal areas might well be the answer, and the answer, too, to the issue of social isolation.
Unless decisive, creative, action is taken on what is now the single biggest issue facing us, there will be even more people in emergency accommodation, at Christmas 2017.
Daithí Ó Frithile
Never too early for a Christmas cracker
What song do you sing at a snowman’s birthday party?
Freeze a jolly good fellow!
Help elderly people at Christmas time
Some people will be all alone over this Christmas period. All they will have is golden memories of Christmases past, when laughter filled the now empty rooms, and the walls echoed to children playing, with toys. Some elderly people will have no one to talk to, or, share a glass of cheer with.
Let’s try and get back to the real meaning of yuletide. A smile. A kind word cost’s nothing, yet means so much to that lonely elderly person. Remember, they too, were once young, and full of vigour. Those beautiful wrinkles etched into their faces, were hard earned, and worthy of respect. That poor limp, was the result of years and years of hard physical work. That’s why they are a bit slow at the supermarket checkout. Instead of shuffling uneasily, give them a helping hand. Treat them the way you would treat your parents. The most precious gift you could give them, and it costs you nothing is your time.
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