Thursday, 31 January 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the Leader for the copy of the Order of Business we received this morning. Last Tuesday night, for those who do not know, the 64th annual general meeting of the Irish Farmers Association took place. The Taoiseach turned up and was received well, despite some commentary afterwards in the media. I echo what Senator Horkan has said. Over the coming weeks, if possible, we should have a number of debates that deal with sections of Brexit because the subject is so big and vast. Brexit is the greatest political challenge of our time. I particularly want to talk about agriculture. It is a time for cool heads and steely determination and I wish the Taoiseach well. I also compliment Senator Richmond, who chairs the Seanad committee on Brexit, on his very professional performances, particularly on British television. I have also seen him in other media. It is something the House can be proud of that a Senator is articulating a view and there is consistency in the Irish Government's approach. This is important.
Irish farmers want unfettered and continued access to what effectively is 90% of their market in the UK. We need to develop new markets in Asia, China and throughout the world for beef, fish, horticulture and food. We need to address this and that is one of the modules I will suggest for our debates. The Leader plans to bring the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the House to make statements and that will be important.
The IFA president, Joe Healy, stated it was important to keep pressure on London and that unless the UK adjusted its red lines and came forward with something better the backstop would remain. I am firmly of the view the backstop should remain regardless and I believe that is the Government's approach. Mr. Healy stated Irish farmers had suffered savage cuts and will continue to do so if there is a break away from Britain and that is clearly inevitable at this stage. We need to look at CAP reform because it will be very important. I call for a Brexit debate specifically on agriculture, horticulture and fisheries.
Yesterday, we had very good engagement with the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, on housing. He indicated to the House he did not have sufficient time to answer the questions he was asked. He also indicated to the House he would be keen to return. I hope that can be facilitated in the short term. It was a good engaging debate, and the Minister acknowledged this, but we did not have enough time. I ask for a slot at some stage in the very near future to facilitate the Minister so he can continue his response to Senators. It would not be to reopen the debate but to facilitate the Minister, as he did not have an opportunity to respond to a number of questions. It was a good and meaningful debate and I thank the Leader for organising it.