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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Sep 1998

Vol. 494 No. 2

Private Members' Business. - Crisis in Agriculture: Motion.

Deputy Connaughton wishes to share his time with Deputies Kenny, Perry, Ulick Burke, Timmins and Stanton.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government for its mismanagement of the current crisis in farming and calls on the Minister for Agriculture and Food to:

—provide adequate shipping infrastructure to transport the maximum number of weanlings to the Continent;

—introduce a fodder scheme that will address the shortage and cost of inadequate winter feed supplies on many Irish farms;

pay double headage to hill sheep farmers;

extend the family income supplement to farmers and the self employed;

reduce the retention period for suckler cows;

instigate an immediate inquiry into the collapse in pig prices;

pay all grants and subsidies due to farmers as set out under the farmers' charter of rights;

increase the resources of An Bord Bia to get new markets abroad for Irish farm products.

The reaction of the Government to the current crisis in farming is alarming but predictable. It has no intention whatever of helping farming in a meaningful way through one of the worst crises in the past 25 years. In essence the problem is that the Government does not see the agricultural sector as going anywhere. For obvious reasons the sector is not performing as well as other sectors. This is a good news Government. It wants to be associated only with that which attracts good publicity and to airbrush agriculture off the agenda.

A rescue package of £10 million pounds was announced yesterday and today. The seven million cattle in Ireland have been devalued by £100 per head, a figure accepted by everybody. If this happened on the Stock Exchange it would be closed for a week. It means that £700 million has been wiped off the value of stock held by farmers while the Minister is giving them £10 million.

The Government's analysis of and subsequent feeble reaction to the crisis is alarming in the extreme for farmers. The Government should have no trouble evaluating and analysing the current problems. In the context of fodder scarcity we are all aware that it started raining in mid-June and, by and large, has not stopped since apart from a two week period. Every farmer, Teagasc adviser and Department of Agriculture and Food official who called to farms during those three months could see there were horrendous problems on the ground. They saw areas where there was no growth, where silage could not be cut in some cases and realised, above all else, that there was going to be a greatly reduced amount of winter fodder on farms. Due to market forces, a bale of silage which cost £10 last year costs £20 this year while the cost of hay and straw has similarly increased.

Farmers who found their grassland was poached had two options, namely, to bring in cattle two or three months earlier than usual and feed them a limited supply of fodder or sell them on the market. I know there are problems facing agriculture for which the Minister for Agriculture and Food or any other Minister cannot and should not be blamed. The Minister has no control over the weather or the turmoil in the Russian market. However, he should have been able to manage the crisis which he saw unfolding three months ago. If he did not see the developing crisis then he is not doing his job.

There are a number of matters which are worth putting to the Minister. Two months ago it was as clear as day for the reasons I have outlined that farmers would have to sell cattle several months in advance of the normal timetable. There was a racket going on about the non-availability of shipping space to the Continent for weanlings. The Minister said we exported more weanlings this year than last year, but that does not matter a fiddler's damn if the price farmers receive for weanlings at marts is much lower than this time last year. On my travels around the country to marts over the past two months I met exporters with contracts for 1,000 cattle in various continental countries, but who could not buy any because they had no shipping space. I blame the Minister in large measure for this situation. It is a physical problem which we should have been able to overcome but about which the Government did nothing.

In case anybody thinks I am overplaying the problem, I was at the mart in Ennis, in Deputy Daly's constituency, last week and saw the nicest heifer weanlings weighing 298kg being sold for £220. This is daylight robbery. The man selling them was going nowhere as there were no grants available and no market for them.

Everywhere I go farmers say they know there are huge problems in agriculture but that the Minister is not trying his best. I understand this was said directly to the Minister this morning at the ploughing championships. Neither the Government nor the Minister are trying their best, something I put down to the fact that the Minister did not understand the depth of the problem as it unfolded. Alternatively, the Government and the Taoiseach have decided to allow farmers hit the bottom, that they are not important. I find it difficult to understand how the Government can turn its back on old friends. Around the country Government backbenchers are being told that Fianna Fáil is letting down people for whom the party meant so much over the years.

The £10 million package will fall very short of the losses incurred. I could not find out from the Department exactly how the £10 million will be distributed — I hope the Minister will outline this in his speech. For example, will small dairy farmers in areas of severe handicap or with very wet lands be excluded? A top up of £2.5 million has been announced for hill sheep farmers who need everything that is going. However, only a double headage payment is of any use to them. Unless the Minister tells us otherwise, I understand there is a proposal to pay £6 per ewe in some areas — it has not yet been decided where. Hill farmers bringing their sheep to the mart are less concerned about how much they will get for them than whether they can sell them at all. Such sheep are almost unsaleable, particularly wethered lambs. Animals which were selling for £17, £20 and £22 last year are selling for £2, £3 and £4 today. The land used for sheep farming cannot be used for any other purpose, leaving the farmers with no income. There is no way of providing them with an income unless headage is doubled as I have proposed.

In the EU context I am sure the Minister did his best to get export refunds increased last week. Last Friday, before the announcement was made, most factories were paying 78p. On Monday morning with immediate effect the factories knew there was an extra four or five pence per pound which did not exist on Friday and which should have been paid from Monday.

To my knowledge, the factories have not yet moved on that. There is something very wrong with such a cartel arrangement. What must one do to ensure that funding from Brussels passes directly to farmers who are selling cattle for £150 per head less than usual? The Minister should insist this money is passed on as the current situation is scandalous.

We have outlined a number of measures in this motion which, if enacted, would ensure that farmers get through the winter. I have referred to the lack of available transport to the Continent. A basic principle of EU membership is that there is free movement of goods and services throughout the Union. If we produced computer products for which there were ready markets in the EU but were unable to transport the products to that market, civil war would break out. We must be allowed to sell our products and we must do whatever it takes to get those products to the markets. It is time that dawned on the Government.

The £2.75 million proposal in regard to the hill sheep farmers was put in place by the previous Government. The Minister is not therefore seeking an increase in the headage payments, rather he is seeking permission from Brussels to pay them at the same level as last year.

The family income supplement was implemented for people working in the PAYE sector. I agree with the principle behind this payment which means that eligible participants who want to work and give of their skills and talents to the community can hold down badly paid jobs and have their income supplemented through FIS. For a couple with three children, the cut-off point for FIS is £252 per week. People earning less than that amount are entitled to apply for an FIS payment. What about the self-employed and farmers? Why are they being discriminated against? A couple with three children may be working very hard on the family farm but may be unable to make £252 per week because of external pressures. Many of them would not even make half that amount. Why will the Government not announce the immediate extension of the payment to farming families? The Taoiseach is reported as having said such a move would cost £70 million. I checked the figure with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs and was told it could cost as little as £30 million. The £30 million figure speaks volumes about the thousands of farming families living on the poverty line. Why is the Government running away from this issue? During the term of office of the previous Government, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Family, chaired by Deputy McGrath, adopted that proposal. I recall the Minister's colleague, Deputy Mary Wallace, making an impassioned plea at that stage that farmers should be included. I hope she will revisit her comments now as this issue is of vital importance.

The retention period on the suckler cow scheme should be shortened. It is doubtful many farmers would accept the current prices. I accept the Minister's comments in regard to the Libyan trade and hope it will serve to improve the situation although I am not aware of many cattle being bought for that purpose. However, if the Minister says the ship is sailing next week, I believe him.

I have a great deal of sympathy for pig farmers. Will the Minister, as a sign of goodwill to the industry, abolish the £1.05 slaughter levy? I received phone calls from farmers in Cavan and Donegal today who sell approximately 150 pigs per annum, which is low even by national standards. It would be wonderful if they could save £150 per year and it is within the Minister's power to enable that. In terms of intervention and aids to private storage, the facility which was obtained does not appear to be working. It is bad enough for pig producers in the south of the country but those in Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and Meath are receiving £5 or £6 less per pig. Most pig producers are losing £18 per head per pig and they will simply not be able to survive at those levels.

I notice the headage payments are beginning to be paid and as far as the charter of rights is concerned, that is in order. However, it is not sufficient to say that ‘x' amount of headage will be paid on time. There is an income crisis in Irish agriculture at the moment with a shortage of cash coming into farming households. Farmers do not know where the next payment will come from. They have children to support at primary, secondary and third level and must buy clothes, shoes and pay university fees like everyone else. There is intense bitterness among farmers at the moment as they feel the Government is not doing enough for them.

The financial resources of An Bord Bia should be greatly expanded. We will only get out of the current mess by getting into markets in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and ambassadors, salesmen, Ministers and the Taoiseach must do all they can to ensure that Irish animals are sold in these and other markets.

This Government comprises three different factions: Fianna Fáil, the majority party, the Progressive Democrats, for whom agriculture has never been anything other than a joke, and the Independents. The Independents are a special button on the trousers of the Government — they are keeping them up. I am calling on the Independents to do in this House what they are telling local radio and newspapers they want to do for the farmers.

Now is our chance.

My final word is for the Fianna Fáil backbenchers. They are going around the country speaking from both sides of their mouth at the same time.

Where are they now?

They are for the farmers when they are down there but when they walk through the lobby they are not.

They say terrible things about the Minister.

They never say they are rolling in it.


It is important that when one is in Government one takes responsibility for what is going on. During the BSE crisis, prices were not as low as they are now and it was an international crisis. Fianna Fáil constantly spoke about what the then Minister, Deputy Yates, should and should not do. Now, when matters are not nearly as bad, they are making a hames of it.

There is a strong squadron in support of Deputy Connaughton's motion, which I also strongly support. I recall listening to the Minister when he was a Minister of State and launched a £600 million beef programme with Mr. Larry Goodman and the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. It seems he has lost his passion, commitment and understanding of the way he used to operate.

There is deep despair among farming families. They believe the Minister for Agriculture and Food does not appreciate how great that depth of feeling is. If he did, it would be some consolation and help to them. Deputy Connaughton has pointed out on more than one occasion how serious this problem is. Children of farmers attending third level have tramped the streets of this city looking for accommodation and have lost an entire quarter because they cannot get some-where to live. The Minister's refusal to extend the family income supplement to thousands of these families speaks for itself in terms of the Government's commitment and the Minister's ability to convince the Government.

At the World Trade Organisation talks in Singapore, which I attended as Minister for Tourism and Trade in the previous Government, it was obvious that agriculture will be on the agenda of the next ministerial meeting in Geneva in 1999. There is an extremely strong lobby building up in South America, Australia and New Zealand to abolish all subsidies and premia. Statistics are being correllated by the ILO and the WTO. The Minister is aware of the significance of this and what it means in terms of Agenda 2000. I hope he will be strong enough to resist it when the time comes. There is a great deal of politics being played internationally, with visits by Irish Ministers to Iran and Libya. The Libyan Government and people are suited to import the beef we raise here and I hope that ship sails next week. I agree with marketing the base quality product.

It takes a while to change the structure of an enterprise. However, the world population is rising and there are countries inside and outside Europe which can take more of our product. It requires a huge investment in marketing to convince them that Irish product is of world class quality and is suitable to their needs.

As regards headage payments, there is no point in giving a person two breakfasts in one morning. This is the farmers' due and they are entitled to it under the charter of farmers' rights. This is a bluff. They are entitled to payment and the system should be streamlined enough to cater for that. I agree that the best return on farming enterprise income is in the dairy area. What is being done about the national quota and the consequences for young farmers entering the business?

The retention period for suckler cows should be changed. If one has to keep them from 1 June to 1 September, they have to be fed. If they could be culled and removed from the system, it would lessen the burden. Perhaps the Minister will do something about this. He should do something about the movement of heifers within the 30 days blood test period. This is causing a restriction on heifers blood tested for brucellosis who cannot be moved in that 30 day period without being tested again.

This motion is strong and has the support of all Fine Gael Members. It can be seen from the numbers here that they mean business. The Minister is the leader of the political farming voice and I expect him to try his utmost to convince his colleagues that they have done too little too late and that they will have to do more.

I compliment Deputy Connaughton on the role he is playing in this grave issue. It is obvious there is no vision for agriculture at the moment. The constraints are well recognised — the decline in the amount of land and farmers needed to produce food, the ageing farm structure in the west, the extent of non-viable farms and the difficult economies of scale which prevail.

A typical constraint in terms of farm viability is that there is 40 to 50 per cent reduced milk yield per square mile in the west. Serving in a rural constituency, I am aware of the huge role of farming families in local towns. The estimated £70 million cost of giving FIS to farmers clearly indicates the gravity of the problem. This is based on filling the 60 per cent gap. Teagasc have found that 25 per cent of all farms are non-viable, there is no off-farm income and a huge number of families have dependent children.

It is grossly unfair that the income baseline for families with three dependent children is £272. It is a grave injustice that farmers are excluded from FIS. Something is dramatically wrong if a family with sales of £16,800, expenses of £11,000 and a net income of £5,200, which is only £100 per week, is not entitled to FIS. I ask the Government to look at this.

Another area of concern is dairy hygiene. The production of milk and dairy products obliges dairy farmers to undertake costly on-farm investments, for which grants are not available. As regards farm investment, there is still a great need for investment grants and farm improvement programmes to improve efficiency, help modernisation and increase profitability.

Farming is a spent force and is occupational therapy for a huge number of people. Deputy Connaughton and I went to Ballymote mart, where the despair could be seen in the rings. People were giving away weanlings for £200. I met an exporter who said that he could have exported 1,000 during peak trading, if he had the boats. This problem should have been dealt with before now. It is too late. This is the busiest time for marts and people are giving stock away. There has been no support for farmers during the weather crisis. I ask the Minister to give double subsidies at the very least.

The Government should look at the FIS as a compensation measure. Its current operation discriminates against those on farming income. They are not looking for dole. Family income supplement is widely promoted by farming organisations as a means of helping farmers at this time.

I compliment Deputy Connaughton on bringing this important and timely motion before the House. The work of the Minister and this Government over the past 15 months can be summed up in three words: failure, failure and failure.

The first failure was when the Minister failed to get adequate support from the Cabinet to realistically confront the problems in agriculture. This was forcefully brought home to everybody today when the Government Chief Whip said in Wexford that he did not realise there was a crisis in agriculture. How could the Minister hope to gain support in such a Government? I challenge him to face down the people who think solely in urban terms and to demand realistic compensation for farmers in this crisis.

Never before have all sectors of agriculture been in crisis at the same time. This time last year cattle were selling for an average of £75 more than they are today. Ewes were selling for £20 more.

They cannot be sold today.

Lambs are selling for £12 less per head than they were last year. Deputy Healy-Rae, who is at present hiding behind the column in this Chamber, must speak out now for the hill sheep farmers who cannot give away their lambs. He must prove to the House and to farmers that he is concerned about them by voting for this motion.

The second failure by the Minister was his failure to go to Europe and adequately highlight the crisis. That was proven when Deputy Connaughton and Deputy John Bruton went to meet the Agriculture Commissioner who told them he did not know there was a crisis in Irish agriculture.

The Minister's third failure was his inability to bring forward a realistic policy to show young farmers that they have a future in agriculture. He failed to initiate a single policy which might show that the Government has a commitment to agriculture.

The Minister is a failure on all fronts. If I were still pursuing my previous occupation and marking the Minister on performance, I would give him an NG — no grade — for his activities in the past 15 months. However, even if the Minister failed to extract adequate finance from Government, he can still take action without incurring extra financial commitments. He can extend the 30 day limit to alleviate the marketing problems in marts in the west of Ireland. It should be extended to 60 days.

Last Tuesday week at the sheep market in Abergavenny in Wales a group of farmers walked out in disgust after watching sheep being sold for 25p each. They were so dismayed they chose to give their flocks to the RSPCA rather than sell them. This might be difficult to comprehend but it did happen and, while one cannot blame the Minister for it, it should alert him to the fact that unless radical steps are taken this crisis might be the beginning of the end of the agricultural economy as we know it in Ireland.

Farming is undergoing an unprecedented crisis, as was pointed out to the Minister in the Dáil debate on this subject last May. At that time the Minister outlined certain measures he intended to take but nothing has happened to date. The wider community appears to be oblivious to the crisis or dismisses it. The Minister has a responsibility to articulate the situation to the general public and outline what measures he proposes to take. If the problem is not addressed, there will be wide-ranging knock-on effects which will impact adversely on rural schools, businesses and the rural way of life.

During this debate the Minister will hear many complaints and tales of woe. They are well founded and merely reflect the message that has been coming from farmers, particularly during the last few months. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

The Government should consider declaring a national emergency in agriculture. I have never seen anything like the current crisis. Recently I went to the mart in Midleton and there were more people there than cattle. Confidence was gone and cattle were being taken away without any bids being made for them. That is the situation in a relatively wealthy part of the country.

Farmers are in despair. These are real people who are in real trouble and who need real help. I, too, call on the Independent Deputies for action. The country needs Deputy Healy-Rae, Deputy Fox and Deputy Blaney to show some bottle at this time. Deputy Healy-Rae made an inspired maiden speech last year in the Dáil during which he told the House that he is the champion of the small man and the small farmer. Now is his time; he must speak now. He will not bring down the Government but he might secure action for people who are in trouble and need help.

It is 12 months since the Minister abolished installation aid. In the intervening time he repeatedly promised it would be reintroduced. Deputy Fox, annoyed and angry, told the House that she was putting down a marker for the Government to ensure it is reintroduced.

Another crisis has been created solely by the Government. According to Macra na Feirme, only 12 per cent of farmers are under 35 years of age. That is an extraordinarily serious issue. Young people have no confidence in farming. Whatever small incentive existed to attract them into agriculture was abolished when the Minister, only a few weeks after promising otherwise during the election campaign, abolished installation aid. A year later, during which there were repeated false promises, there is still no sign of its reintroduction.

This crisis goes beyond politics. The Minister and the Government must get their act together for the sake of the country. The announcement of the Government's aid package was timed to take place during the National Ploughing Championships in Wexford and just before the Dáil resumed, probably in the hope of defusing this debate.

That tactic has not worked. Farmers are still angry. Their anger was obvious when they demonstrated in front of the Department of Agriculture and Food a few weeks ago. Their anger was accompanied by despair. At the time I wondered why they had been so quiet but they explained that they had been negotiating in a responsible manner with the Department for a long time. The negotiations were going nowhere so they had to take to the streets. They did not want to do that but they had no choice. It was the only way to attract the Government's attention.

For the sake of the country and its largest industry, let us work together. To date, the Minister has been a failure and I do not say that lightly since he is a fellow Corkman. I feel sorry for him. He has been led like a lamb to the slaughter. For the past year he has said he is depending on the Minister for Finance to allocate money to agriculture. The Minister for Finance did not do that and when he did it was too little and too late.

It is time for the Minister for Agriculture and Food to fight back. If he does, he will have the support of all sides of the House. He must be seen and heard now. People are facing an extremely bleak winter and some small farm families will go hungry because of the inaction of the Minister and the Government.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann commends the Government, and especially the Minister for Agriculture and Food, for their continuing support for the agriculture and food sectors, and their efforts to deal with the difficulties currently affecting farmers through a range of measures including

—securing the Libyan market for cattle exports,

acceleration of direct payments to farmers in 1998,

the increase in the rate of advance to 80 per cent for the suckler cow and special beef premiums,

the introduction of aids to private storage for pigmeat,

the increase in export refunds for beef, pigmeat and SMP,

the arrangements made for live shipment of cattle and lambs,

the introduction of a winter fodder package."

I am pleased to have the opportunity of responding to this debate because the current situation in agriculture merits serious discussion in this House. I accept that there is a serious situation in agriculture and I am glad to have this opportunity of dealing with all of the issues raised and setting the record straight. I have stated publicly on many occasions that the difficulties facing farming now are on a par with those that faced agriculture following the BSE crisis in 1996——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): It is worse.

——only they are worse on this occasion because there are weather-related difficulties and fodder shortages which compound the problem.

Neither I nor the Government can be held responsible for the economic and political situation in Russia, which caused the real difficulty for cattle and beef farming——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Poor Deputy Yates.

——any more than we can be held to blame for the weather, which has caused the fodder problem. When the political hyperbole is stripped away, the critical question is what action has been taken to deal with the situation.

I am prepared to defend the Government's and my own record in that regard. Recently, I announced a series of measures to assist farmers with their cash flow. Such measures include the speeding up of direct payments to farmers. Of course, farmers are entitled to direct payments. They are compensatory payments and are available to them. I negotiated the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which makes those payments available to farmers. They are their due entitlement but speeding them up is helpful in cash flow terms. Farmers are getting paid cattle and sheep headage payments this year one month earlier than ever. That is an effort to be of assistance. If anybody here or outside wants to slow them down for any particular reason we can arrange that as well.

Why would anyone want to slow them down?

Let the Minister continue.

We also negotiated an increase in the advance of suckler cow and special beef premium payments. As everybody knows, that advance is paid at 60 per cent but we have reached agreement from Brussels to pay it at 80 per cent. The reason is to bring forward £45 million extra for farmers before the end of October this year. Normally, they would have had to wait until next spring to get the extra £45 million.

There will be more rapid payment of REPS where such payments fall due. There will be a payment of the outstanding top-up of £6 million to certain beef producers in early October. We have arranged at an early stage for Teagasc to hold special free advisory clinics on fodder in the areas affected and to do a survey of the worst affected areas.

Another measure is the promotion of live exports and re-opening the trade to Libya. That trade was closed down for a number of years. I thank my Government colleagues for their assistance to me in re-opening that trade.

That was promised 15 months ago.

An agreement was signed on 25 July 1998 by the Department of Foreign Affairs and a high level delegation from Libya. That agreement has since been endorsed by the administration in Libya and we are told by the main shippers that they will be shipping from 10 October 1998. I expect shippers and cattle buyers to be bidding in the marts — the sooner the better, as far as I am concerned — in time for those ships to begin sailing to Libya on 10 October for the first time in several years.

I put a lot of work into ensuring that appropriate transport facilities are available for live exports. I want to return to that issue later because it has been raised.

Each of these areas was identified as an important issue in discussions with the main farming organisations I have met with on a consistent basis over recent months, including July, the holiday month of August, and September. Further action is, of course, necessary. Despite all

I have said, I accept that significant hardship will be experienced on many farms in the areas most adversely affected by weather conditions. I do not need to labour the point on the weather situation this summer. In the peaty and heavy clay areas of certain counties, the capability of farmers to make adequate silage and hay was greatly reduced. While the situation improved significantly in many areas, but not all, in August and while the two week dry spell in September was very important for getting an extra cut of silage — and in the middle and northern part of the country it was important to tidy up the harvest — fodder difficulties exist in a number of areas. In addition, farms in such areas have had great difficulty in allowing animals to graze and in getting machinery on to farms. Many animals have been brought indoors to be fed, which further exacerbates the problem of winter fodder, some of which has already been eaten. I acknowledge those difficulties.

I was pleased that the Government responded yesterday by making £10 million available to deal with fodder difficulties being experienced by farmers in some locations.

That is only lucky dip money.

The details of the new scheme will be finalised very quickly because we want to get it focused and targeted on the people who need it most. We want to get money into the pockets of farmers so they can buy additional fodder. This is a fodder scheme.

We had weather difficulties in the 1970s when I remember that a fodder scheme was organised through a voucher system. It was practically use-less and it was fiddled in voucher scams. As regards this scheme, I have asked officials at a senior level in the Department to draw up a scheme to target individual farmers in the worst affected areas, as highlighted by the Teagasc report. In that way, those who most need help will be able to buy fodder with that money.

I am also seeking the approval of the European Commission to continue the sheep headage top-up of £2.75 million. I agree with Deputy Connaughton that this was there for the last couple of years, but it was not a permanent thing. Because of the difficult situation this year I have asked the European Commission to continue with that scheme. I will, however, be looking for additional measures.

At this stage I would like to consider the overall picture for farm income in 1998, looking at each of the main sectors briefly. This year we have the difficulty that it is not just confined to certain sectors. In 1974 we had difficulty with calves that were thrown away for half nothing, but it was confined to one sector. This year the difficulties affect cattle, sheep and pigs.

Until July 1998 the outlook for the beef sector was positive with supplies running well ahead of 1997. The beef problem, however, was created by the difficulty in Russia, which occurred in mid August, only a number of weeks ago. Because of the amount of beef they took from Ireland — some 70,000 tonnes or the equivalent of over 200,000 head of cattle — it created enormous problems for us.

The position relating to the milk sector is much more positive. Prices have been very good for the first seven months of the year and are well ahead of 1997. Those milk producers who are not affected by weather conditions have, for the last ten or 15 years, had a positive income.

The outlook for output value in the pig sectors is very disappointing. Pig farmers had good years in 1995, 1996 and 1997, but this year is extremely difficult with very low prices.

The outlook for output value in the cereals sector is one of little change and more or less the same as last year.

Direct income payments now account for 48 per cent of income arising in agriculture. These payments play a significant role in supporting farm incomes and will do so again in 1998. This is a point which is forgotten when comparisons are made in regard to previous difficulties in agriculture. In previous times we did not have 48 per cent of income made up from direct payments. The fact that I have secured the European Commission's agreement to advance the payment of 80 per cent of the suckler cow and special beef premia in 1998 will provide a significant boost to cash flow in October this year, whereas normally farmers would have to wait until next spring.

Until Christmas.

The House will be aware that this week I have had to defend the level of payments arising from adverse comments in the German magazine, Der Spiegel. Members have heard that on radio and television.

The Minister did not make a great job of it. I heard him.

I defended those payments totally because I negotiated them. They are worth a significant amount of money.

The situation on the beef market stems from the loss of the Russian market. I have made the very strongest representations to Europe, including Commissioner Fischler whom I met in Austria last week and in Brussels this week. I impressed upon him the need for immediate and urgent action. The difficulties in Russia were on the agenda of the Council of Ministers this week. The measures I identified as being necessary included a substantial increase in export refunds which were, in fact, granted; the introduction of an EU-sponsored export credit guarantee scheme; a widening of the intervention system and an increase in cattle premia from 60 to 80 per cent. I am pleased my efforts have borne fruit and that a variety of measures are now in place which should help to bring about an improvement in the situation.

Our exposure to the Russian economic difficulties is easy to understand. In 1997 we exported 70,000 tonnes of beef to Russia and similar levels were expected this year. Russia took 40 per cent of EU beef exports in 1997. Beef previously destined for Russia is now being diverted back to the European market. However, a further difficulty, which we did not have during the BSE crisis, is that there are 580,000 tonnes of beef in intervention. In 1996 the intervention stores were clear. This creates an extremely difficult problem for us. The recovery in beef consumption was assisted by An Bord Bia over the past couple of years. We have now recovered a substantial amount of the consumption which we lost as a result of the BSE crisis.

I am confident the following measures should help to alleviate the situation for our producers. The European Commission at the beef management committee last Friday increased export refunds by the equivalent of 5p per pound. I asked factories to pass that on. The first quotes were on Monday morning but the 5p was not passed on. My predecessor had similar difficulties with the same factories.

The Minister condemned him.

I recall he referred the matter to the National Prices Commission, but it was not able to do anything about it. It is regrettable that a number of those factories are owned and controlled by farmers. Co-operatives control a substantial amount of our beef processing.

The Minister should meet them.

I call on them to pass on the full benefit of the 5p export refund to the beef producers because they and the economy need it.

I made a request to the Commission for an export guarantee scheme to be introduced specifically to deal with the Russian situation. This would provide EU exporters with the necessary confidence to resume trading with Russia pending the restoration of normality on the Russian market. We are anxious to ensure that any measure taken does not undermine the commercial trading infrastructure which has been built up over several years and which will be vital once the Russian market returns to normal.

I am continuing to put pressure on the Commission to put more effective and flexible intervention support arrangements in place to help stabilise the market. We must get back into the Russian market and we must have a more effective intervention system. I made it clear at the Council of Ministers meeting that we do not want intervention beef released into a market which is already depressed, as that would depress it even further. Another problem is that there are 580,000 tonnes of beef in intervention.

The Commission's policy on the sale of intervention beef will have major implications for the recovery of our former trading profile with Russia. The decision last week to sell 10,000 tonnes of intervention stock at relatively low prices will not help with this recovery. I objected strongly to that and asked that an ultra-cautious approach be taken to the release of any of that beef for intervention.

We have made progress in a number of markets and I am confident and optimistic about making further progress next week in the Iranian market. We had difficulties in the Iranian market over the past couple of years because of political and diplomatic problems. All European countries withdrew diplomatic representation, but that is now improving. I will meet my Iranian counterpart next week as well as other senior Ministers of the Iranian Government. High level diplomatic contact involving my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs is ongoing with Iran and it is my intention to make every effort to reopen the market as soon as possible. The Iranians had serious concerns about BSE which led to the closure of the market since 1996. I hope to discuss these concerns in detail with them during the course of my visit next week.

It is unfortunate that BSE levels have increased this month just before my visit to Iran.

The previous Government was blamed for that.

Was that the fault of Deputy Yates?

The media seem to be gloating at the "alarming increases" in BSE levels, although there has been a decline of 11 cases over the year as a whole. If there had been a lower number of cases during September, I doubt if it would have merited any comment in the media.

I am pleased I was involved in reopening the Libyan trade. The Government, especially the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was exceptionally helpful in this regard.

The availability of shipping services to transport cattle and other livestock to export markets is a critical factor. However, we must be clear about the facts. We have two commercial operators of roll-on/roll-off ferries, Pandoro and Irish Ferries. They carry livestock to the Continent and this service is being augmented by the carriage of large numbers of animals on dedicated vessels. So far this year we have exported 83,000 head of cattle to the Continent. This is four times the number of cattle exported in 1997.

At £200 per head less.

Cattle exports to the EU so far this year are already almost on a par with what we exported in 1995, which was an all-time record. Anyone who read the Farming Independent yesterday will know that one of our national farm leaders commented on the fact that we were exporting too many weanlings and calves. Between 4,000 and 6,000 head of cattle a week have been exported to the Continent in recent weeks and I believe exports will continue at that level. On that basis I am confident that 1998 will see the highest level of cattle exports to the EU in four years. These figures and the log sheets speak for themselves.

The log sheet is the farmer's bank balance.

There was no shipping facility last year when I came into office. I went to the Government and got £1 million to put the M.V. Purbeck on the high seas. It was capable of carrying 12 units but on average only six were used by the people who are now shouting that they do not have enough. Pandoro is capable of taking 18 units and Irish Ferries is capable of carrying 12 units. There are 30 units available this year.

They would be used if they were there.

How did farmers survive last year?

Did the Deputy think that 6,000 cattle swam across the sea?

The Minister should be allowed to reply without interruption.

There are also difficulties in the pigmeat sector. Oversupply of pigmeat in the EU, increased production, static consumption and difficult export markets have combined to make the EU 108 per cent self-sufficient in pigmeat. On the home front, the fire last June at a pig processing plant in Northern Ireland has added to the problem for certain producers from the South who were supplying it. Approximately 5,000 pigs per week went to the plant.

The Minister should not blame the fire.

The Minister admits it now.

The Minister, without interruption.

I worked with the pig plants and the farming organisations to ensure that the overhang of pigs was taken out of the market. I know that factories worked over weekends as a result. That has helped in reducing the overhang. Some weeks ago I also requested the Commission to introduce an aids to private storage scheme to support the pigmeat market. The Commission agreed to do this and with effect from Monday last an attractive scheme has been in operation. It will provide EU funding for storage of 70,000 tonnes of pigmeat destined for third countries for a period of up to six months prior to export.

What price will pig producers in the north-east get?

The fire at the pigmeat plant in Northern Ireland caused additional problems on the market in the South. A backlog of pigs awaiting slaughter built up. To deal with this, the Department, the IFA and the Irish Association of Pigmeat Processors put arrangements in place for Saturday slaughterings. That has improved the situation considerably. To assist pig producers I have also put a proposal to the EU Commission for an adjustment in the veterinary inspection fee to reflect the price payable to producers at a particular time in the pig cycle. That is currently with the EU for approval and I expect that approval to be granted in the coming days.

It is time that happened.

Bord Bia has been prominent in promoting pigmeat and I hope those involved in that sector will do everything possible to provide assistance because prices are at an all time low.

This has been a mixed year in terms of sheepmeat. Following a request I made to the EU Commission for assistance, a scheme of aids for private storage was introduced which helped to alleviate this difficult market situation. There followed a period of several months during the summer when lamb prices were at record levels and reached as much as 12 per cent above last year's level. However, since mid-August the situation has changed and we are again faced with a depressed market. I accept that people are practically giving away animals at some marts.

That is the challenge to be faced.

It is unbelievable.

I visited Spain which, in addition to Portugal and Italy, is an important market for Ireland. However, the Spanish are now exporting sheep and lambs because of the growth in their herd numbers.

I am conscious of the difficulties faced by hill sheep producers and I have asked Bord Bia to do everything possible to resolve the situation. I am aware that Bord Bia is engaged in an intensive promotion of sheepmeat and, as already stated, I recently visited Spain to progress matters in this regard.

In an effort to address the market problem in a targeted way, I have taken steps to encourage the live export of sheep. The Holstein Express was cleared to carry live lambs some time ago and a second vessel, which sails to France, is currently undergoing inspection and it will be approved in the next few days. I am also hopeful that the live trade of light mountain lamb to southern Europe will give a boost to the sector and I am doing everything in my power — including visiting the area — to assist in that regard.

The issue of direct payments was raised earlier. I reiterate that farmers are entitled to such payments and I make no apology to anyone — including the author of the article on this matter which recently appeared in Der Spiegel— in that regard. I make clear my intention to make payments available earlier this year in view of the problems which have arisen. Already £146 million has been paid to farmers under the 1998 headage and premium schemes. This compares with 116 million paid out at the same time last year under the 1997 schemes and it is in stark contrast to the position in 1996 when only £74 million had been paid out on 30 September of that year. Payment of sheep headage commenced this year on 21 September — ahead of the commencement date in 1997 — and, to date, over £12 million has been paid to sheep farmers. Payment of cattle headage commenced on 26 September — a month ahead of the commencement date in 1997 — and over £47 million has been paid to date. Effectively, approximately £60 million has already been paid under the 1998 disadvantaged areas schemes. This compares with just over £13 million which had been paid on 30 September 1996. Early payment is designed to provide assistance in resolving this problem.

Farmers are entitled to those payments.

Reference was made to the retention period for suckler cows, which is, unfortunately, set out in a Council regulation. It would require the introduction of a further regulation to change the retention period. Given the way regulations are drafted, it would take a considerable period to bring about change. Effectively, any agreement on changing the retention period would not be obtained in time to benefit a reasonable number of producers this year. I am confident that the fodder scheme I intend to introduce will be of assistance to farmers in that regard.

The Minister should be seeking that change now.

Since its establishment in December 1994, Bord Bia has been committed to promoting, assisting and developing the marketing of Irish food and livestock in a professional manner. Over £12.5 million has been allocated from Exchequer and EU funds to give a total budget of over £18.3 million to Bord Bia for its activities in 1998. That is a considerable improvement on past allocations and if there is any way I can make further moneys available to Bord Bia I will be glad to do so.

The motion before the House is unfair and unbalanced and it does not take account of the action that has been taken since current difficulties — the Russian situation did not manifest itself until mid-August — arose. On a number of fronts, the Government has taken effective action to support the industry through the introduction of a range of measures including increasing export refunds; putting transport facilities in place for live exports; reopening the Libyan market; accelerating payments to farmers; increasing advance payments; providing advisory support and actively promoting our products on export markets.

I commend my amendment to the House. I call on the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to use the remainder of the time available to make his contribution.

I am glad to have the opportunity to welcome this important measure which is aimed at assisting farmers in this time of difficulty. The Government has responded swiftly and strongly to the needs of farmers and I compliment the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, on the action he has taken. I am aware that he has used every available opportunity to assist in this process. This was confirmed at a recent parliamentary party meeting when representatives of the IFA acknowledged the fact that Deputy Walsh is on the ball in respect of negotiations with Commissioner Fischler.

We have put together a package amounting to an additional £13 million which will be targeted at those most affected by the combination of market difficulties and a grave winter fodder situation. This, combined with bringing forward headage payments and the range of measures announced by the Minister for Agriculture and Food, will make a significant difference on the ground. In preparing this package we consulted widely with farmers and their organisations. It was made clear to us that an urgent injection of cash was needed which would allow people to hold on to cattle or to buy fodder, as the case may be. That is what we have provided.

I strongly believe that when people have an opportunity to consider the details of the package of measures being put in place they will agree that the action being taken is appropriate. Frank Allen of the ICMSA appearing on "Morning Ireland" acknowledged that.

What else would the Minister expect from Mr. Allen when he canvassed for his party during the general election campaign last year?

As a Government, we must consider income support for farm families in the context of trends in farmers' income. There have been dramatic changes in farming since the 1960s, particularly following our entry to the EU. The modernisation of agriculture during that period has played a major role in creating our booming economy and society. Farm families must share equally in this boom. There has been a dramatic shift in the source of farmers' income during the period.

The Minister must be reading last year's script.

Roughly speaking, half of farmers' income comes from off-farm sources and half of the remainder comes from direct income support.

One of the results of recent changes is that there are enormous differences between various categories of farmers. Some have done very well from farming, some see farming as an add-on to their off-farm activity, but there are others who are not faring as well. Low income farmers contribute significantly to rural disadvantage. The Government is addressing this problem in a number of ways including the establishment of the Western Development Commission and drawing up a White Paper on rural development.

An Action Programme for the Millennium recognises that farming is the cornerstone of the Irish economy and will remain so into the next century. We are committed to supporting farm families to achieve an equitable distribution of support payments. All Departments, including mine, have a role to play in this regard. My Department's role relates primarily to addressing the needs of farmers on low income. We are currently spending £33 million on what is, in effect, a rural income supplement, namely, smallholder's assistance.

That is completely different and the Minister knows it.

Over 7,000 people, many with families, benefit under this scheme. There are many other safety net payments including pre-retirement allowance and old age pension. These payments have an important role to play in ensuring a safety net for farmers.

Following discussions with the Department of Agriculture and Food, the following measures will be taken to increase the effectiveness of this scheme. Farmers already on the scheme will be encouraged to come forward for reassessment of their means. My Department will intensify its information campaign at local level to increase awareness of the scheme and to emphasise its applicability to farmers. In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Food, the means assessment procedure will be reviewed to ensure that it takes full account of recent trends in farm incomes. However, we must look at the long-term situation and consider the policy options in this area.

The Combat Poverty Agency which operates under the aegis of my Department is currently undertaking a review of farm income support policy in the context of targeting resources at low level households. This review is due for completion by the end of the year and I will carefully examine it with a view to informing policy options for low income farmers.

FIS for farmers is not a solution to the short-term problem. This ought to be self-evident to anyone who takes time to consider the real problems facing farmers. Farmers are looking for an immediate response. A weekly payment along these lines, if it were to be introduced, would not meet the needs expressed to us. The extension of FIS to farmers would, of course, raise wider issues. It raises the question of the extension of FIS to the self-employed generally and other groups, such as CE workers.

Who told the Minister that?

This would massively increase the cost of the scheme, much of which would not benefit farmers. A range of practical measures are associated with such a policy proposal, including issues of take up, incentives to develop farm income and equitable treatment of income from different sources.

With regard to the likely costs of extending FIS to the self-employed, there seems to be some confusion. With the agreement of the House I wish to extend my time briefly to explain this.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The last costings were prepared four years ago and suggest that the likely additional cost would amount to £30 million per annum. These figures are subject to limitations and circumstances have changed considerably since. For instance, as a result of budget changes introduced by me to the scheme, it is now calculated on a gross rather than net income basis. Obviously, that would increase the figure of £30 million. I confirm that work is under way on preparing revised estimates and preliminary figures. They indicate that the cost of FIS would be considerably higher than the 1994 estimate and perhaps would be as high as £80 million. It is not good enough to devise policy proposals on the basis of outdated figures. We have asked that these be updated and are trying to develop a much more cost effective and targeted approach to this crisis.

Some Deputies opposite led by Deputy Bruton have unashamedly jumped on the FIS bandwagon. Deputy Bruton is now in Opposition. He did not bring in FIS for farmers when he was in Government last year.

The Minister wanted to give us information.

Did the so-called rainbow coalition agree this measure in Partnership 2000?

Deputy Ahern is the Minister.

A crisis in agriculture is all the Minister has to offer.

The rainbow coalition did not insist that it be included in Partnership 2000.


The Minister is insulting the House.

Please allow the Minster to conclude his remarks.

The Minister is not lecturing us in the courts.

No one on this side of the House would say farmers were rolling in it. Deputy De Rossa said farmers were rolling in it.

The Minister has no answer to anything.

The Minister still thinks he is in Opposition.

Opposition Deputies said when they were in Government that farmers were rolling in it.

The farming organisations are here listening to the Minister.


I wish to share my time with Deputies Penrose, Moynihan-Cronin and McManus.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This is the first time the Leader of the Labour Party has spoken in an agriculture debate. I do not purport to be an expert on the matter but one of the reasons I am speaking is that I share the view that creating a political football out of agriculture is not the way forward, having met many rural organisations over a number of months.

We agree with that.

That is not to say there are not passions in this debate. However, the debate is of crucial importance in the context of the recent disasters experienced in the agricultural sector. While a widespread consensus that there is a crisis in farming is shared in urban Ireland, it is deeper than the current fodder shortages and the disastrous prices for cattle and pigs.

It simply cannot be isolated from what is proposed in Agenda 2000 and CAP reform. Only now people are beginning to realise and wake up to the fact that the CAP reform of 1992 — the MacSharry proposals — simply failed to meet their objectives. During the negotiations on CAP the European Commission set out a number of objectives. It set out to increase competition to allow farmers to take advantage of world market developments, improve food safety and quality and provide alternative incomes in jobs for farm families. CAP reform failed on most of these points.

It failed to provide food at affordable prices for consumers and maintain the maximum number of farm families on the land in Ireland. Not only do 5,000 farmers leave the industry annually, but the young people coming behind them are not interested in farming as a career. I experienced this at first hand when I met an IFA delegation in north Tipperary in July. Parents are worried about the future of the family farm, which in many cases they spent years assembling.

Agriculture is not seen as a career choice but as a career of last resort by many young people. Who could blame them for leaving farm life in search of a more prosperous career in urban centres? The current prices for cattle, pigs and sheep could not sustain young families, particularly in areas where holdings are small and the land is disadvantaged.

The Deputy was in Government with DL also.

I am not saying it is the fault of any Government. This is a much bigger and deeper crisis. Shouting at each other and scoring points will not solve the problem. That is why I respect the expertise of Deputy Penrose, who has helped to educate me about the scale of the crisis in a way I never understood.

The current crisis has for too long been narrowly focused, evidence of which has been seen during this debate. Successive Agriculture Ministers have acted as firefighters in their portfolios. There is a distinct absence of a rural policy which would ensure the sustainability of farms and the families who depend on them. The Government, Opposition parties and the farm lobby must change tack. There is a need to concentrate on long-term policy instead of firefighting and to look at where the problems exist.

We should be clear about who is suffering most during these current difficulties. Inevitably they will be weathered by the larger farmers who for the past ten years have experienced modest increases in their incomes and have been able to invest in farm expansion and upgrading. However, there are pockets throughout the country where rural poverty is an issue. Some farm families will simply be wiped out within the decade unless we have a rural policy which is targeted at sustaining them.

It was pointed out in a recently launched study by the Roscommon Smallholders Action Group that the higher income farm households benefited more from the current direct payments system and in 1996 only 15 per cent of direct payments went to those households earning less than £5,000. This area is in need of radical reform. Those on the lowest incomes should benefit most from direct payments but current policy mitigates against this.

I wish to criticise the manner in which the Government has attempted to put forward a rush policy on regionalism in an effort to secure maximum funding under the next round of Structural and Cohesion Funds. The Government's so-called subsidy shopping approach to regionalism could damage our chances of procuring decent funding. My party is in favour of a policy of genuine regionalism based on subsidiarity, democracy and socio-economic equality. The concept of regionalism must be based on a bottom up approach and at its core should be the plight of small rural farm families whose existence is threatened every day. Agriculture is still our most important indigenous industry. The type of policy which we put forward over the coming years will determine whether farms sustain families or we develop into a nation where farms become large empires for a select few.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion and to set the record straight for the Government Chief Whip who seems to be of a different view to the rest of the country and thinks there is not a major crisis in farming. I hope that does not indicate that he and his colleagues are out of touch with reality. I was shocked by what he said, but I know the Minister, Deputy Walsh, is not out of touch with reality. There is a crisis in agriculture and even though the Minister announced a rescue fodder package yesterday, it will only skim the surface in terms of resolving it. It is welcome, but it has been brought to my notice that there will be problems in implementing it. Some people believe they will be excluded from the benefits. That is why it is critical it is targeted at those in need.

I would like to tell our European counterparts that primary agriculture is three times more important in Ireland than in the EU generally. It and the food industry remain the bedrock of our rural economy. The agri-food sector is also an important part of our economy accounting for 14.2 per cent of GDP, 13.5 per cent of employment or 175,000 jobs and more than 13 per cent of our exports. I put those facts before the House to refute the recently published articles which reported we were getting more than our fair share of subsidies. The beef production sector, which I know a good deal about coming from the midlands, generates between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of our national wealth. The corresponding figure in the EU is only 0.3 per cent or 0.4 per cent. In other words, the beef sector is ten times more important to our economy than to the average EU economy. That relates only to the production sector and takes no account of processing and other related industries.

I congratulate the Minister who fought hard to get beef export refunds increased last week. That was supposed to give farmers an increase of 5p per pound in the price of beef, but that is not the case. I have said before in this House that someone is snapping up price increases. When my party was in Government I asked if a cartel was operating. It is difficult to prove it, but there is no doubt about that now. How is there a coincidental fall in prices? Surely one person can sell beef better than another person. That is the nature of competition. Why did all beef prices suddenly fall to 78p per pound? Why is someone not offering 80p or 81p per pound for beef? It is time the Competition Authority was asked to examine this matter. The increase in export refunds that was hard won last week has not been passed on to producers at the farm gate. That is part of the problem. It is no use winning battles if wars are being lost elsewhere. The Labour Party will support the Minister in whatever measures are needed to ensure that all the hard won concessions are reflected nationally at farm gate level.

We know where the problem lies. Since June cattle prices have fallen by 50 per cent, the lowest in 25 years and lower than during the BSE crisis a few years ago. The price decrease is largely attributable to the crisis in the Russian market and until recently our inability to gain access to the key Middle Eastern markets. The pig industry is in crisis and it is on the receiving end of the downturn in the world economy. Turbulence in the Asian markets has had major implications for our pig exporters and, consequently, for our pig producers. A farmer involved in pig production to weanling stage told me it takes up to £30 to produce a pig to weanling stage, but he is lucky to get £18 for it. That makes matters very difficult for pig producers. A prominent beef farmer in the midlands told me today that it costs 90p a pound to produce beef to finishing, but farmers are getting only 78p a pound for beef. That return is unsustainable.

There are a number of problems in this area. One is the absence of competition, which I hope will be rectified by the reopening of live exports to Libya and other Third World markets. We are facing an era when the sheds housing winter fatteners will be empty. A prominent midland farmer who used to take in 600 store cattle annually took in only 160 cattle in 1998. That farmer employs a few men and their jobs are under threat and, more importantly in relation to competition, that farmer will be absent from the livestock mart ring. That farmer is as critical as any live exporter, but he is on his way out of farming. That point has been lost in this House. There should be no ambiguity or equivocation about that. The midlands, which is the home of winter fattening, is being decimated. I could bring the Minister down to those farmers. Some Deputies might not like to admit it, but 60 per cent of my votes come from farmers and many of them have a good deal more than ten acres. I am reflecting their concerns tonight. Those farmers have told me in no uncertain terms that we have let them down.

A recent editorial in The Dry Stock Farmer by Pat Lawlor stated that rural politicians had better wake up because the face of rural Ireland is changing. Farming will be decimated and the traditional farming practised will be no more. Sheds will be closed and there will be a switch to factory farming similar to that in vogue in other European countries. That is not what I, my constituents or the Labour Party want. I am proud the Leader of the Labour Party is present tonight to reflect our concerns about this. I want to send a message to the farming organisations. We invited some of their representatives to meet us to discuss the problems facing their members as far back as January, but we did not get the courtesy of a reply. We will not be treated as second class citizens in relation to this debate. We are the oldest party in this State and are here to reflect farmers' concerns. If farm leaders want to discuss anything with us we are ready and willing to play our part to ensure the survival of rural Ireland, which is very dear to my heart.

If the Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, does not know what is happening, I had better tell him. One hundred farmers are leaving the land every week. As my party leader said, one of the objectives of the MacSharry proposals was the maintenance of the maximum number of farming families on the land, but that statistic reveals we have failed abysmally to meet that objective. I am not blaming Governments or anyone else in that regard. The Minister said that £1 billion is available in income supports, subsidies and premiums, but is it right that 70 per cent of those supports go to 30 per cent of farmers while the remaining 70 per cent of farmers receive only 30 per cent of the supports? Does that constitute equity and is it effective? It is time we examined our method of allocating resources. We have an obligation to ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively and are properly targeted. We are abrogating and standing back from our duty in that regard. We must change the system to ensure that farmers who have been excluded, such as heifer farmers who do not receive a penny in supports, are catered for. There is a proposal to reduce suckler cow quotas by 9 per cent when we need a quota to cover another 250,000 suckler cows. We must address the problems in those areas.

I welcome the reopening of exports to Libya which should bring down the curtain on the BSE saga which had a massive negative impact on our beef sector. That market has the capacity to take up to 200,000 cattle in a full year. We will support the Minister in his efforts to secure markets in other Third World countries.

It is important to highlight the issues affecting the economic and social fabric of rural communities and to identify approaches to overcome disadvantage. I do not wish to attack the Minister personally but I have a problem with the number of commitments that were given. I do not give undiluted commitments to anybody because they come back to haunt one.

I urge the Minister to reintroduce the installation aid scheme. This would be a psychological fillip for young farmers and the farming community in general. It costs only £5,600, which is 50 per cent less than the cost of an IDA job. Between 6,000 and 7,000 young farmers are awaiting the reintroduction of the scheme. I received a representation at 11 p.m. last night from a distraught father in north Westmeath, an area which is suffering huge depopulation. He is a widower and has a reasonably sized farm. He has three sons to which he wanted to transfer the farm and, thankfully, all three decided to take the option. However, despite the fact that all the duties involved were paid, the family received a letter last week stating that their application for installation aid was too late. It cost the farmer £16,000 to transfer his farm to his three sons, all of whom completed courses in agriculture, and they have been denied the princely sum of £16,800 between them.

Although some editorials in the farming media do not agree, the suspension of the scheme for young farmers sent a negative signal to farmers. The Minister indicated that the scheme would be reintroduced and, although I do not like criticising him on a personal basis, it is to his shame that this has not happened.

The control of farm pollution scheme is critical. It is expensive and I understand why it was suspended. However, it is a critical scheme not only from the point of view of participation, but also for environmental protection and to facilitate the entry of farmers to REPS. It is estimated that the Minister's current inaction in relation to the reintroduction of this scheme is preventing up to 30,000 farmers participating in REPS due to inadequate farm pollution control facilities. If the average annual payment to farmers is approximately £4,000, this means a loss of £120 million of which 75 per cent perhaps could be recouped from the EU.

This problem is one of a number of factors which have caused the current difficulties. The Minister cannot be held accountable for the weather or the position in Russia. It is wrong for politicians to cast around blame like snuff at a wake. The Minister can only do his best, but there are a number of internal matters which he must address. If that was done, it would give a psychological boost to the farming industry and young farmers. An industry without youth will wither and die. In 1973 there were 275,000 farmers. The number has reduced to 150,000 and it is predicted that by 2010 there will be only 60,000 farmers. This is the scenario facing us and, if it happens, there will be remote control farmers and a reversion to the old tradition of landlords which our forefathers fought against. That would be a terrible indictment of our inaction.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this important motion. In common with many of my colleagues from rural areas, over the summer recess I witnessed the terrible misery facing the farming community, particularly in my constituency of South Kerry. Since May the prevailing weather conditions have mitigated against every element of farming activity. One only needs to look outside the door today to understand what I mean.

I wish to dispel the prevailing myth that farmers are only interested in handouts and grants and do not want to enhance their incomes through improved farm practices. The farming community I represent is not interested in income maximisation through grants and subsidies. The people involved are concerned about farms becoming profitable so that their sons and daughters will be encouraged to remain on the family farm. This is the aim towards which agricultural policy should strive.

The atrocious weather conditions throughout the summer have created a major problem for the small farmers in my constituency, the west and elsewhere. Small farmers struggle at the best of times to make ends meet, even when the weather is kind to them. The heavy rainfall over the past months has made their position untenable. Animals survived on poor grazing pastures during the summer. I met a farmer at a public meeting two weeks ago who told me his animals had been inside since June. That is unbelievable.

Farmers are facing an uncertain winter and action must be taken now to avert disaster. I ask the Minister to give an assurance that animals will not die during the winter for want of sufficient fodder. While I accept the package announced by the Minister yesterday will go some way towards alleviating the current crisis, I still have great fears about from where the fodder will come.

The banks have a crucial role to play and there are two courses of action they must take to assist small farmers during this crisis. Everybody has heard the banks say that they wish to become partners in farming. They now have the chance to prove their commitment to this worthy aim. The banks should provide cheap loan facilities to small farmers. Farmers who have been affected by the bad weather conditions should be offered special short-term loans that will cover them from October until April next year. These loans should be provided at 2 per cent less than the current standard lending rate at a minimum and access to the loans should be provided as speedily as possible.

I urge the Minister to exert pressure on financial institutions to show understanding over the coming months to farmers who may have difficulty meeting existing payments. The message must be loud and clear: we do not want farmers put to the wall by banks due to small arrears on loans caused by this unprecedented crisis.

The farmers I represent in my constituency operate family farms. They are not factory farms. The Taoiseach admitted today that it would cost £50 million to allocate family income supplement to farmers experiencing a huge drop in income. He therefore admitted that there is a shortfall in rural incomes of £50 million. I hope my Dáil colleagues from South Kerry and all rural Deputies will show solidarity on this motion. It involves the future of our most important industry. For small and hill sheep farmers and their families, who are the backbone of the country, opposition to the motion would be a smack in the face.

I welcome the debate. The crisis in agriculture is real and extensive. In the past I was occasionally critical of farming organisations for the way they represented their case. However, I now agree with them on two points: first, that the position is extremely grave and, second, that the Government's response is inadequate and shortsighted. Farmers in my constituency of County Wicklow are directly affected by this crisis. During my time in office I listened with interest to constituency colleagues who are now on the Government side, including Deputy Fox, who promoted the interests of farmers. They have an opportunity this evening to speak out on this important matter and I hope they will do so.

It must be recognised by Members on all sides that the situation is grave, particularly regarding the dramatic fall in cattle and beef prices and the collapse of the Russian market, given Ireland's huge dependence on it. The scale of losses is unsustainable and can only be addressed at EU level. It is important that the EU, as Russia's closest neighbour, deals effectively with the result of events there.

The current position raises issues which extend beyond the immediate problems. It raises questions about the balance required between rural and urban development and the correlation between rural drift and uncontrolled urbanisation, the effects of which we are experiencing at present in relation to house prices and traffic chaos. Rural Resettlement Ireland has shown the way. We need to learn from the models adopted by it and others. When in the Department of the Environment and Local Government I was surprised by how enthusiastically a minor measure on housing in rural areas was received. It showed how important low cost measures can be in relation to rural development.

In the past ten years 70,000 people have left the land. In other EU countries vanishing rural populations and deserted villages are also a matter of concern. Confidence in the current system of agricultural supports and their effectiveness is at an all time low. Fluctuations in price reflect a boom or bust agriculture which does not benefit small farmers or the consumer.

A better analysis of the future of agriculture is required to deal with structural problems. It must be recognised that it is not possible to turn the clock back in terms of the Common Agricultural Policy. It must be recognised also that there are important issues which have to be addressed to ensure the future of one of our prime industries. While I welcome the motion, I have reservations about the proposal to introduce family income supplement for farmers. I understand a Dáil committee is reviewing this proposal and it must be given time to reach conclusions, but it would be difficult administratively to use the family income supplement in this way. Given the cyclical nature of farm incomes, it would be impossible to apportion it fairly or correctly.

It is recognised, and has been stated by people more expert than I in this field, that the Minister is not responsible for a combination of global factors or the weather, but he is obliged to deal effectively with the issues which have arisen and in a far-reaching way as opposed to a knee-jerk response. It is obvious to everybody that such thinking has been missing when it comes to making decisions, that the Minister has failed to deal with the crisis and that the Independent Deputies who hold such sway over the Government have failed to exert their influence in the interests of those whom they purport to represent.

I wish to share time with Deputies Michael Kitt, Coughlan, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Healy-Rae, Ellis and Kirk.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The number of speakers is evidence of my party's commitment to agriculture and addressing the issues confronting the farming community. Last June on the Adjournment I highlighted the particular difficulties facing pig producers in light of the fire at the Lovell and Christmas plant in Ballymoney, County Antrim. Pig production is a major segment of the industry in County Cavan. I have often highlighted the need to ensure pig production is not confined to large scale units. We must protect the small pig producing units. The future of the pigmeat sector would be well served by small and large scale producers.

There is inadequate slaughtering capacity. This means there is a lack of competition. It is particularly important that additional slaughtering capacity is provided in the Border region. McCarren's and Company, bacon curers, which had traded successfully in Cavan since 1860, providing worthwhile employment for generations of families, closed in early l996. Its skilled employees processed products to the highest standard. The industrial relations difficulties at the plant have now been resolved. The Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Keeffe, and their officials have been involved in intensive negotiations to ensure it is reopened as quickly as possible. I urge them, Bord Bia, the farming organisations and every other interested party to redouble their efforts to ensure the necessary competition is provided.

During the summer the Minister introduced a number of measures to address the serious difficulties facing the farming community, but more needs to be done. I hope it will be possible to tackle effectively the fodder problems which are particularly acute in west Cavan.

Deputy Penrose rightly stated that it is the view of the farming community that they are not being offered proper prices by the factories. It would be better if the Competition Authority devoted its energies to ensuring there is a correlation between the price the primary producer is paid and the price of the finished product. The authority recently published a report on the pub business. There is an adequate number of pubs. I have yet to hear of anyone becoming thirsty because they could not get to a pub. The Government should direct the authority to address the prices paid by the factories.

Everybody in rural Ireland is talking about the bad prices for livestock which are below the European average. One of the newspapers yesterday carried the headline, "No price rises despite beef refunds top-up." This is a cause of great concern. Export refunds on live male cattle are to increase by 7.7 per cent and on boneless beef cuts by an average of 12 per cent. These increases work out at 5p per pound. The Minister asked processors to pass them on to producers but that has not happened. It is surprising that meat factories are not referred to in the motion. I hope the Minister will remain in contact with Commissioner Fischler to devise a plan to lessen the impact of market difficulties.

It is most important that markets closed following the BSE scare are reopened. The Minister has had meetings with livestock exporters to make arrangements for the early shipping of live cattle to Libya as well as the Continent. Approximately 100,000 cattle have been exported so far this year compared to less than 30,000 for the same period last year.

I hope the subsidy of £10 million to which the Minister referred will be of use. According to a detailed assessment produced by Teagasc in the middle of August, 20 per cent of farmers in the north-west and the south-west have been unable to save any fodder due to wet weather conditions and 50 per cent of farmers in these areas will be short of fodder this winter. It is important that farmers are offered assistance in preparing feed budgets and in the movement of fodder from east to west. I hope the farming organisations will be involved.

I am a great supporter of the family income supplement scheme and hope a way can be found to extend it to farmers and the self-employed. Failing that, the small holder's assistance scheme should be used to help farmers who find themselves in serious financial difficulty.

I welcome the measures introduced by the Minister in recognition of the serious crisis in farming, particularly sheep farming and the suckler cow herd. I welcome the announcement with regard to the fodder scheme. I hope farmers in County Donegal receive favourable consideration given the high rainfall recorded. I welcome the export of live cattle to Libya and hope it will restore balance to the market following the loss of the Russian market. There is a need to double the number of cattle exported to the European market. In 1997 the pig industry created £264 million. Donegal farmers are getting approximately £17.50 less per pig than southern farmers because of the serious problems of access to slaughtering facilities. Farmers have told me that in 1974 they got £46 per pig, and now some have to accept £23 per pig.

Pontification from any side of the House and attacks from the farming organisations will not solve this problem. It will be solved through strong action. The Minister will have to take on the supermarkets and factories.

The money the Minister made available should have gone to the farmer, but it has not. People should be told that there will be no more support. That is erroneous and works against the farmer. Supermarkets are neither providing meat at a fair price nor creating leniency towards Irish products. It is difficult to believe that even in Donegal one can get Argentinian beef. Housewives do not even know where it comes from.

The factories will have to be taken on in the live export sector, and I support the Minister in this task. It is not easy but it will have to be done if we are to have stability in the farming industry.

There is no doubt the Minister faces one of the greatest crises in Irish agriculture in recent decades for two reasons which are outside his control: the collapse of the Russian market and the inclement weather during the summer. As we face into winter, family farms will be affected and people will suffer. Some of them will be without an income to put food on the table, and that will have to be addressed by the Department of Agriculture and Food or the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs.

There is also a fodder crisis, and I welcome the initiatives announced in recent days to deal with this. Every area claims to be worst affected, but my area has suffered a serious crisis since the middle of July. There have been dairy cows in sheds since mid-July; they were left out for a brief respite in August but are now back inside because of the inclement weather we have had for the past two weeks. Political points can be scored by saying it is the fault of the Government, but a number of initiatives have taken place in my area of Duhallow, where local co-operatives have begun a fodder scheme. Fodder is being transported from parts of the country which have a surplus because they have not suffered a fodder crisis. This is being supplied at no cost to farmers. The co-operatives have a part to play in this problem and, as Deputy Moynihan-Cronin said, the banks will also have to play their part.

The Minister mentioned a 7.7 per cent increase he achieved in Brussels, but the meat factories have not returned that to the farmer. Are those factories making a bigger profit on the backs of farmers? This will have to be addressed through the Consumers Association of Ireland or another body. If one buys a beef heifer at any mart one is paying £100 to £120 less than their weight for that animal. Has anyone bought a steak in a restaurant for less this year than last year? The Consumers Association of Ireland will have to look at a lot of the questions being raised by this crisis.

I welcome the announcements of the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs tonight. Regarding the beef market, I am pleased that the Libyan market has been reopened by the Minister and that export refunds have been increased. I hope that at least the additional money given to the Minister will be passed onto the consumer as soon as possible. I call on processors to ensure that extra money will be paid to farmers immediately.

Regarding the pig industry, there has been a £1.25 reduction in meat inspection fees. However, the farmer is being paid a reduced price, and this reduction should be passed onto the consumer, which is not happening. If it were the case, Irish producers would oversell foreign produce both at home and abroad, and this would also help to alleviate the hardship being suffered by farmers. I call on processors and supermarkets to ensure pigmeat prices for the consumer are reduced considerably.

Call on the Minister.

It should be half of what we were paying last year.

I welcome the £12.75 million being made available by the Minister as there is a massive problem in farming. Everyone knows where I come from; I come from the heart of the present disaster — places like Mangerton Mountain, Glencar and the Black Valley. As Deputy Sheehan said, only a tunnel separates me from him. The sheep farmers in south Kerry and south-west Cork have massive problems this year.

And Mayo.

I call on the Minister to come to these people's assistance. The Minister knows how desperate matters are. Small hill farmers have no winter feed available, and without the Minister's assistance they will not survive this winter. They will not be here in 12 months. They have no sods of turf, no bales of hay and rotten silage. These areas are severely handicapped. Some areas of the country enjoyed good weather and have plenty of feed to spare. Those areas are better off this year than they were last year. The one part of the Minister's proposals that worries me is the danger that, like past schemes, the big farmer will cash in. I rely on the Minister and his staff to assist the small hill farmers and small dairy farmers.

Away from the doom and gloom I compliment the Minister for what he has done. When others in the House were enjoying the sun in the Bahamas and getting a colour, the Minister and his officials accepted phone calls from me and ensured that five loads of weanlings were shipped out of the country. I compliment and thank them for their assistance during that crucial period when there were major problems. The Minister played a leading role when other people were at races or enjoying themselves in the sun.

The Minister was at the races too.

The veterinary levy is applied to pigs to the tune of £1.25 for each one and this is hitting the pig industry. I appeal to the Minister to sort out the application of this levy with the European Union. I know it cannot be suspended but I ask him to do something.

We are an island nation and it is appalling that we do not have a ship of our own. The indication I got around the country is that there is not a single person involved in farming who is not prepared to contribute or assist in some way towards the provision of a vessel of our own which will be available to us when we want it. I appeal to the Minister to accept this proposal and to come to our assistance by providing this vessel soon.

We welcome the opportunity to give our views on the crisis. No one should be under any illusion, and the Minister knows better than anyone, that there is a crisis in agriculture on a number of fronts. The price paid for commodities is well below what is expected. That represents a major loss of income to farmers at all levels and all producers are suffering.

There are now more cattle in this country than ever before. There has been an overhang of cattle in the past 18 months to two years as farmers held on to more stock than normal. This has led to overstocking in certain areas. Be that as it may, a genuine effort is being made by all involved to try to develop markets. We all welcome the reopening of the Libyan market. We know it was not simple and that many arms had to be twisted to reopen it. We also know the Minister will visit Iran in the next few weeks to reopen that market. With goodwill and common sense, that market will be reopened for Irish beef.

That is a small issue in comparison with the overall problem which is that we have been commodity sellers and traders in the dumping markets of the world for the past ten years. We have never concentrated on where the major prices were to be had, which was in Europe. We preferred to sell the 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes anywhere as long as the refunds remained in place.

We are now paying the price for that. On top of that, the BSE crisis has led to a downturn in consumption.

There are two other problems. There is a fodder crisis which affects a large part of the country. If someone tells me a round bale of hay at £18 is fodder which can be bought by farmers, I will tell them it is out of the question because it is not a realistic or viable option. Teagasc must educate people in using concentrates along with the minimal amount of fodder available.

The Minister is doing everything to ensure the package of which he spoke is finalised as quickly as possible. However, it is only a start in dealing with the problem. It will return in the months ahead. While the payments are being made and it is important for farmers to receive them to get their bills up to date, that is all the money will be used for. It will be used to pay for last spring's feed and fertiliser and other bits and pieces, such as the children going back to school. This initial allocation of £10 million will help to alleviate the problem in the short-term. However, it must be examined in the long-term. We must see what assistance can be made available within reason to get people out of the fodder crisis. I believe the Minister accepts that and I know there will be a need for further moneys down the road when the crisis is fully assessed. I understand that Teagasc is only half way through an in-depth analysis of the position.

The other problem is income. I hope something will be done to put in place a family income supplement or to pay unemployment assistance to small farmers. There is enough money to deal with this short-term crisis. To put people out of farming in the short-term will have a devastating effect on the economy in the long-term. Whether people like it or not, farming has, down the years, been the backbone of the economy. I have no doubt that the Minister, Deputy Walsh, will see to it that whatever needs to be done over the months ahead will be done.

We should welcome the initiatives the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, has proposed to tackle what is undoubtedly a serious crisis. Any assistance which can be given will be welcomed and any support which can come from the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs will be welcomed by many smallholders. Many of these measures are short-term and the discussion on the future of the industry will have to wait for a later date. Nonetheless it is relevant to what we are discussing today.

The crisis in the industry has been precipitated by a number of problems. We are all familiar with the BSE problem and the serious lack of confidence and trust in the integrity of our meat. It has suffered seriously and grievously because of that. The process of rebuilding that confidence in the quality of our meat will take time and will cost a great deal of money. The quicker it can be achieved, the better.

We have had exceptionally bad weather this year. It has created difficulties for those on heavy land who should be harvesting fodder for their stock for the winter. We have heard stories of individual farmers having stock indoors back in August. That has certainly not happened in the recent past. It has been a long time since it happened and I hope it is a long time before it happens again. The grain harvest is very important to my constituency and this has been the most difficult harvest for many years. The crisis would be even worse were it not for the machinery available to help with harvesting. There will be a substantial loss of income due to the weather and the quality of grain.

There are also serious difficulties in the pig industry. Over production in the EU has led to a serious loss for farmers. The day is gone when farmers had six sows requiring a minimal commitment in capital for accommodation. A Teagasc specialist told me that a person starting in the pig industry would spend £500,000 on accommodation and buying stock. That is not a realistic proposition for one individual. If they can make money in construction or development it might be possible, but pig farming is not viable today.

There has been rapid change in agriculture over recent years. However, many of the Agenda 2000 proposals would precipitate an even more rapid change. If milk quotas are abolished and milk is traded as a commodity at world prices, there will be a dramatic change in the structure of farming, leading to a mass exodus from the industry. Farming has been the main wealth creator in this economy and it will be devastated unless the community is prepared to take account of the unique farm structure. This economy cannot afford to dispense with an industry which has created such wealth. Our policies must be structured to ensure that we remain as viable as possible and that we retain as many people as possible within the industry.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Bradford, Crawford, Gerry Reynolds, Sheehan, Farrelly and McCormack.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

What about Deputy John Bruton?

He spoke yesterday.

Where is the Taoiseach? He is probably out opening some pub.

Deputy Ring without interruption.

This is the saddest night for farmers that I have known in Dáil Éireann. When people are hungry they come out and fight. Deputy Dermot Ahern stated that representatives of the IFA attended a parliamentary party meeting and spoke of the wonderful job being done by the three wise men from the south. In my catechism the three wise men came from the east and we are suffering with the three wise men from the south.

I listened with amazement to statements that the IFA had commented on the wonderful job being done by the Minister. I do not wish to be too critical of the Minister as I do not blame him for everything. I blame the Taoiseach, the Táiniste and the Government.

I remember being in the Davenport Hotel when the IFA rounded up 1,500 people and Fianna Fáil rounded up about 3,000 people. Fianna Fáil was always good at rounding up people to get the fight going. I wish I had recorded Deputy Cowen on the occasion when he made the most passionate speech of all. Deputy Cowen and the present Minister had all the answers and said there would be no problems in agriculture for the next 20 years. I was amazed to hear Fianna Fáil backbenchers urging us not to make this issue a political football. That is typical of Fianna Fáil in Government. However, in Opposition the party is like the Galway football team — it attacks on all fronts.

Officials in the Department of Agriculture and Food were cheering when the Taoiseach announced that Deputy Walsh was the new Minister. Their view was that he would not lead the Department but the officials would lead him, and that has been the case since he took office.

Farmers have had to wait up to 16 months for payments from the area aid section. The REPS scheme was a good one under the previous Government but it is a disaster since the Minister and his colleague took office. There are only one or two inspectors in County Mayo and farmers have to wait up to nine months for spot checks. I have no problem with spot checks provided they are carried out in the morning. However, I have a problem when farmers have to wait up to seven months. That is not good enough and the Minister can easily deal with this problem. He can instruct his officials to tell people that they will be paid if the spot checks cannot be carried out in time. If a problem is discovered later the money can be deducted. However, this is not happening. There are not enough inspectors with the result that farmers have to wait for their money.

Deputy Penrose is like myself in that he deals with ordinary people on a daily basis. Like the Minister, the IFA lost touch with people for a while. That organisation is now back in touch. There were 1,000 farmers protesting outside the House last week, some from my constituency. Peoples' stomachs are hurting and that is why they are responding. They cannot feed their children.

A woman came to my clinic recently and told me that under the previous Government she had a medical card, was in receipt of social welfare and farming was not too bad. I was delighted to see a banner stating "Bring Back Yates" at last week's protest — times have changed. Deputy Yates must not have done a bad job. Another poster stated that farmers would even accept Deputy De Rossa as Minister for Agriculture and Food. That is an indication of how bad the Government's performance has been.

During the general election campaign I saw a banner asking what Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left would do for farming. I responded to 1,000 people in Westport by asking what would happen if Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats got together? We see what is happening and we know what Deputy Harney thinks of rural Ireland, agriculture and people like the woman who visited my clinic. That woman had 100 lambs and 200 ewes. Last week she sold the ewes for £200 and the lambs for £4 each, making a total of £600. She has a number of children and it would cost her £720 to join the VHI but she could not make up the difference. That is an indication of what the Government has done for agriculture.

I listened to the contribution of the Minister, Deputy Ahern, earlier. All he could do was send out social welfare inspectors to count the number of lambs, sheep, geese, cows and bulls. Now he wants to tell his inspectors and the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, that when assessing these people for social welfare and medical cards they should take into account what this poor lady got for her lambs and sheep last week.

The Deputy is great gas.

That is all the Deputy thinks about the farmers. The farming crisis is all great fun to the Deputy and his party. The farming community is waiting for the Deputy and Deputy Healy-Rae. With no disrespect to my colleagues over here, they did not forget on the last occasion when they had to deal with certain parties who did not look after them in Government. Deputy Roche lost his seat in a previous election and he should watch it now because the farmers are waiting for him.


We do not take £50,000 in my party.

The factories, supermarkets, social welfare officers and the three wise men from the south have to be taken on because this crisis cannot go on and farmers are telling me and the Minister it will not go on.

After Deputy Ring's tour de force our time slot is reduced. Therefore, I will confine my remarks to a few minutes. I welcome the debate and congratulate Deputy Connaughton on his initiative in tabling the motion as the first Private Member's motion in the new session. On occasion when a farming crisis has hit the media the public has taken it as the farmers crying wolf. This time the wolf crying is genuine. The wolf has come to the doors of rural Ireland and taken the Celtic tiger from farm families and rural people. There is need for a strong and positive Government response.

The extent of the problem was admitted by the Taoiseach this afternoon, perhaps inadvertently, when he indicated it would take possibly £50 million should the family income supplement type solution be provided. The Minister has given us his own solution which will cost £10 million. The Taoiseach said that the farming crisis, if it was to be resolved, would cost £50 million and yet the solution from the Minister, Deputy Walsh, is £40 million less. This indicates the extent of the problem and shows how inadequate is the Government's response. The Minister is attempting to deal with the short-term crisis which may pass but the net effect of the long-term crisis is that it will continue to make agriculture a very unattractive career option for young people.

A speaker mentioned earlier that 70,000 people have left the land in the past two or three decades. In recent months all of us in rural areas have attended the presentation of green certificates to farming students. We have seen a decline in the number of people attending those courses and agricultural colleges are almost on the point of closure. The message going out from the Minister tonight is that he accepts the reduction in farming numbers and that he does not have a plan to put people back into farming. That is a negative message and one we must address urgently. The fodder, weather and price crises can be dealt with if the Minister has the will to do so. However the broader crisis of confidence is turning people against farming as a way of life.

The farm installation grant which the Minister promised to retain was scrapped but he has been promising to reintroduce it for the past 12 months. He needs to make an urgent announcement in that regard. He must also respond by means of the family income supplement. I understand there could be some administrative difficulties but if the family income supplement is not seen as the appropriate solution to the immediate cash crisis we have to instruct the various health board personnel to ensure supplementary welfare regulations will be introduced. I hope the Minister will take my comments on board as we need a much greater response than what we have seen to date.

I welcome the opportunity to have a debate on the single biggest crisis that has hit the country in a long time. Irrespective of the fact that Fianna Fáil backbenchers think Fine Gael as an Opposition party is creating a political football out of this crisis, I ask them to recall when BSE was an issue, which was not caused by the then Government. At that time the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, and the Taoiseach were the very people who said that all one had to do was get on an aeroplane and open the markets in Iran, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.

Magic carpet.

Fifteen months later the Minister has not yet visited Iran. When in Opposition four of his party could go out when a boat was half unloaded and try to claim responsibility. Because of their presence the market was shut down and it was some months later before it was reopened. We must face facts. The Minister has failed dismally. I said previously the Minister is a nice person, but the farmers are not looking for a nice person, they want a Minister who will defend their rights. The Minister said previously he did not like his budget to be cut. We have £10 million to sort out this crisis. Only a few months ago the Government got £31 million to help the Third World and I welcome that, but in terms of the Government's commitment to the serious problem in agriculture £10 million is a disaster.

Before coming into Government the Minister said installation aid, farm grants and hygiene grants would be introduced immediately. He knew the finances were available. In reply to my parliamentary question today he said funds are not available and that he does not know when those grants will be reintroduced.

It is unfortunate that the craic is so good the Minister is not prepared to listen, because the pig crisis is also real. The Minister has done nothing about the pig crisis. The reality is that pigs in the Border area today, especially in Donegal, are worth as low as £23 — I was given a quote of £35 — but in Mitchelstown they are £58. It is no wonder there is no crisis there. The Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy Ned O'Keeffe, and Deputy Allen are not in the hot area of Cavan-Monghan or Donegal where pigs cannot be sold. What can be done? It is in the Minister's power to issue a licence to Dromone Meats but he has failed to do so. This means that pigs that could have been exported have not been exported. The charge for a certificate to allow pig farmers to export pigs across the Border is £35. I understand that is not the case in Donegal but certainly it is in Cavan-Monaghan. If pigs cannot be exported this week another permit will be required next week. This is a problem the Minister can alleviate immediately to allow for competition.

Family income supplement is not a political football, I raised it in the previous Government and in this Government. Not long ago the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, told a public meeting that it would cost £35 million to provide family income supplement for the self-employed. It should be provided because farmers need it. The cost has been pumped up to £70 million or £80 million. If that is the factual figure it is an indication of how low farm incomes are.

Small dairy farmers in my parish of Aghabog will get none of this £10 million. They have their cows in since mid-June and did not get a second cut of silage. They are not entitled to this money because of political decisions on headage payments. Half of the parish is classified as severely handicapped and nothing is being done about that. No young farmers are prepared to go into farming because the Minister made promises 18 months ago which he has failed to implement.

I support the motion and the sentiments expressed by colleagues on this side of the House. There is a crisis in the agriculture sector and when it has financial difficulties many business people in rural areas also suffer as agriculture is the mainstay of the economy in such places. I agree the Minister has sat on his hands and has not taken the crisis seriously. A sheep farmer rang me last week saying he never thought he would see the day when it would take three ewes to buy a pint of Guinness. If he was buying Guinness in Dublin it would take six ewes. Nothing is being done in the face of such facts. When the Minister was in Opposition he promised the sun, moon and stars as spokesperson on agriculture. My father says the Lord does not always pay on a Saturday night, but he always pays and it is now time that the Minister started doing something to end the crisis which exists.

The provision of £10 million will not solve the problem. In County Leitrim many farmers have not even got 50 per cent of their fodder. The Minister said he would reintroduce the control of farmyard pollution scheme but there is no sign of it or money for it. He also said he would introduce the dairy hygiene scheme but, similarly, there is no sign of it. Therefore we cannot take for granted anything the Minister says as what he has said in the past has been held up to ridicule and found to be based on political expediency. Fine Gael does not intend to be driven by political expediency. We are serious about the issues affecting the people we represent.

Family income supplement should be extended to the agriculture community which is experiencing severe difficulties in paying bills and sending children to college. The provision of £10 million will not solve the problem but should be the start of the great amount of work which must be done over the next number of months.

I am absolutely amazed that the Minister has not realised the serious situation in the agriculture industry. A major crisis has arisen. When Deputy Yates was Minister he was hounded day in day out by the current Minister and Members of Fianna Fáil who said he should have been doing better. The worst problem that ever befell the beef industry, namely, the BSE crisis, occurred when Deputy Yates was Minister. Deputy Yates had to stabilise the markets and find alternative markets for beef. He did his best.

Sixteen months later the current Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Taoiseach produced a multi-coloured leaflet entitled "A message from Fianna Fáil to the farmers and farm families of Ireland" which said: "political action will be supported by investment inside the farm gate". I have seen no evidence of this. The leaflet continued, "in Opposition we have deplored the closure of the on-farm investment schemes. In Government we will ensure that a viable on-farm investment programme is put into place. Additionally, Fianna Fáil will renegotiate the farm retirement scheme, particularly the enlargement clause, to allow greater uptake of the scheme". What has happened since? Within three months of the Minister taking office, he scrapped the farm installation scheme and has not yet even attempted to reintroduce it. This is despite the fact that three weeks ago at the presentation of certificates in Clonakilty he announced to the people of Darrara College that he had got approval from the Government for its reintroduction. The Minister should be honest and state whether he has got approval for its reintroduction. It should be reintroduced to give an impetus to the livelihoods of those in the farming community.

I have a return from AIBP Ltd., Rathkeale, County Limerick, for five one and a half year old bullocks which made a total of £841.46. When the veterinarian fees of £18.50, the ABB levy of £7.50, the EIF levy of £1.27, the BDE levy of £10, the SRM levy of £15, the insurance fee of £15 and the haulage fee of £25 were paid, the net return was £749.19, or £149.64 per bullock. This does not take into consideration the AI costs before the calves were born.

There has been a collapse in lamb prices. Everybody is aware that mountain lambs were for sale in Deputy Healy-Rae's home town as late as three weeks ago for £3 each. A farmer from Glengarriff brought 15 culled ewes to Macroom mart and got only one bid of 50p each. He accepted the bid which did not pay the entry fee for the ewes to the mart. Is this the prosperity we were told would come to agriculture? The Minister must do something to rectify the situation before it is too late. I appeal to Deputy Healy-Rae to cross the floor of the House and vote with Fine Gael if he has the interests of south Kerry farmers at heart.

I support the motion. There is a crisis in the beef industry with insufficient income for beef producers. As a result, and apart from 100 farmers per week leaving the land, there is a huge number of winter fatteners going out of business. This has already been stated in the debate and the Minister is aware of it. The winter fatteners are at least as important as the ships traveling the high seas. Two years ago a £50 headage payment was made available to heifer fatteners which cost £10 million. There is now a far greater crisis in the sheep, beef and pig industries and the Minister has only proposed a package of £10 million.

Why has one outfit a monopoly in terms of slaughtering capacity? Why can pigs make 7p per kilo more in the south than in Meath or the Border counties? Both the Minister and I know the answer. I think the Minister knows the gentleman who runs the organisations concerned and I would appreciate it if he would talk to him and ask him to pay the same price across the country. The current situation is not acceptable. Why has Dromone meats in Oldcastle, County Meath, not been given an export licence for which it applied last February? I was told by the Department that the reason is the cost involved in putting veterinary surgeons into the factory. Is this an acceptable answer for people who are literally losing their shirts?

In the context of the pig industry, millers have given six month credit to farmers. When will any of the farmers concerned be able to pay this back? How many family farm children have not got the money and school fees which are required on a weekly basis to attend primary schools which in most cases receive a capitation grant of only £50? Today I spoke to somebody on the board of management of a small rural school which since June 1998 is in the red to the tune of £2,200. The parents of the children attending such schools will be asked for the money although they do not have it.

It is obvious that prior to this debate there was no recognition by the Minister or the Government of the serious crisis in farming. The recognition seems to exist now and I hope something will be done about it. A particular problem in my constituency concerns hill sheep farmers in Connemara. Normally at this time of year approximately 50,000 lambs are sold off the hills in the area. This year 10 per cent of the lambs in the region have been sold.

The withdrawal of ewes and lambs from sale will lead to serious environmental and humanitarian problems for the animals as they will simply be returned to the hills. Some of them will die as, because of the fodder shortage, the hills will be overgrazed. This is a particular problem for farmers in the REPS and SAC areas who are obliged to reduce their stock numbers by between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. How is that possible when wether rams are selling for less than £5 per head?

Galway's victory in the All-Ireland final has lifted the spirits of Connemara farmers. I attended the match on Sunday where I met people from various parts of the country who recognised me from my former occupation as a livestock auctioneer. Prior to becoming a TD, I sold sheep at Maam Cross mart. Farmers from throughout the country bought store lambs at the mart. I urge those farmers to come down to the marts at Maam Cross or Clifden where they will be able to purchase 100 or 120 lambs for approximately £500. That would represent a very good financial proposition for anyone with after grass. Every extra customer coming into Connemara at this time will help to alleviate the overflow of small mountain wether rams. Difficulties exist in regard to fodder and grass shortages and there is no confidence in farming. I urge the Minister to double the headage payments for the hill sheep farmers as an immediate response to the current crisis.

Deputy Sheehan's comments in regard to the installation grant were incorrect. The Minister announced the scheme and said it would go ahead. However, we did not want to exclude people from 1995 to the present day. We could introduce it from tomorrow morning but we want to ensure no-one loses out.

Why was it restricted in the first instance? The Minister should stop beating about the bush.

I recognise the realistic statement made by the Labour Party leader and his spokesman, Deputy Penrose. This problem is not confined to Ireland; it exists throughout the world in farming. People are leaving farming as there is a perception that there is no future in it. The Government has responded to that and has been asked to produce a White Paper and a vision statement as to how we see Ireland in ten to 15 years time.

I introduced the scheme; this Government merely took it on.

Seminars are currently being held throughout the country. Rural decline started many years ago and is a worrying trend. If the indigenous population is lost in rural Ireland, it cannot be replaced. That is why more than £200 million will have been paid out in advance to farmers before the end of October.

Nobody recognised that the Minister and departmental officials succeeded in opening up the Libyan trade. We have no political hang-ups about that. Some people in the west of Ireland, dealers in particular, are saying there is no price for weanlings.

No boat has sailed yet.

A total of 6,000 cattle were exported in the past two weeks.

The Minister of State should visit a mart as he appears to be very out of touch.

Perhaps they are the people who are depressing the prices. We must talk to the factories and supermarkets collectively.

I wish to share time with Deputies Deenihan, Naughten and Connaughton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

There is an unprecedented crisis in agriculture at the moment. I am extremely disappointed with the Minister of State's response. He seems to be throwing in the towel and blaming the problems on a worldwide recession. The factors which caused the crisis may be outside the immediate control of the Government but it is the Government's job to protect the interests and livelihoods of Irish farmers. Perhaps the Russian collapse, the worldwide economic crisis and, more importantly, chickens coming home to roost from the MacSharry CAP reforms are contributory factors but it is the Government's responsibility to protect the interests of Irish farmers.

This Government is infatuated with the Celtic tiger. Ministers will fly around the world to the boardrooms of major multinational companies to try to bring in new jobs but they should remember that 340,000 people are employed directly and indirectly in agriculture. If we could safeguard their interests, we would be doing a good day's work.

The Government's response to the agriculture crisis is pathetic in the extreme. The Minister should publish the survey carried out by Teagasc. It indicated that the crisis in fodder alone was in the region of £30 million nationally. In October last year, the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs stated that the extension of FIS to self-employed people would cost approximately £30 million. Today, the Taoiseach stated that because of the escalating crisis in agriculture, it would cost in the region of £50 million to extend the scheme. Therein lies the scale of the problem. A figure of £80 million or perhaps £100 million would perhaps be nearer the mark. The Government has responded with a pathetic £10 million.

I agree wholeheartedly with the points made by Deputy Ellis. An Bord Bia is doing a reasonable job. The graduates coming out of our colleges would sell sand in the Sahara and ice in Alaska if we only pumped the necessary resources into An Bord Bia. We are price takers because we are not brand makers. If we could brand our products, we could sell them anywhere in the world.

A great deal was said about the fact that weanlings were being exported. The results of that will be seen in 12 or 18 months' time when the best of the cattle have been exported at weanling stage. The factories should have their ears clipped for their failure to pass export refund increases on to farmers. In 12 or 18 months' time, we will be faced with a situation where we will be trying to sell the worst Irish beef for years.

A large section of agriculture in the area of winter packing does not have access to raw materials and is fast going out of business. Nothing is being done to protect their livelihoods. The Government's response falls far short of the mark. There is an air of despondency in the agriculture sector as people believe the Minister and the Government have no interest in the livelihoods of the people who have formed the backbone of the Irish economy for so long. The response to date has been appalling and I support the motion wholeheartedly.

It is not an overstatement to say there is a total confidence deficit in Irish agriculture at present. I will not exaggerate the despair and anger which is there. The lack of confidence in the future of agriculture is manifested in the decline in the number of young people applying for places in agricultural colleges this year. They are turning their backs on the family farms.

The fodder crisis was well signalled in June and July. Thousands of farmers attempted to salvage their winter fodder in the worst weather conditions since 1946. They realised they were on their own and no-one gave a damn until they marched in Dublin. I welcome the £10 million aid package. However, it is a derisory amount considering there is a surplus of £800 million.

A Teagasc survey in County Kerry found that a significant percentage of farmers have no winter fodder. I met some of these farmers. They will have to give up farming and no-one cares. Between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of farmers will be far short of their fodder requirement next winter. The average costs for them to meet their fodder requirement, whether round bales or feed, is £4,000. If 4,000 farmers in Kerry have this problem, where will £10 million go?

There is despair among farmers. We need direction in the form of a local policy from co-ops and a national policy which we do not have at present. We have a European policy which we cannot get away from. There is no intervention whatsoever. As regards a rural development policy document, I established a strategy group which led to a report which will be used in that document. I went to Cabinet and received approval for a rural development policy White Paper. That is where it started. I wish Deputy Davern the best of luck with it. I will give him support and some good ideas.

The announcement of £30 million compensation is a slap in the face to the hardpressed farmers and their current crisis. The Minister behaved like an ostrich over the summer months by burying his head in the sand and hoping that the problem would go away. Farmers are losing up to £100 per head on cattle due to the current turmoil in third country markets. The Minister and An Bord Bia have failed to promote or open up new markets for Irish beef. It is time for the Minister to bite the bullet and begin to sort out this problem.

Why has the Minister failed to open up markets? This is one of the main issues on which the Government campaigned during the last election campaign. The Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Taoiseach were seen as the great white hope for agriculture — now they are seen to be full of white smoke. The Minister announced last week that he will visit Iran next month, hoping to re-open trade. Why has the Minister waited until now? Is he aware the Dutch have already signed a contract with the Iranians to export beef? This market is worth 70,000 head of cattle.

The exporting of animals is bureaucracy gone mad. It is now easier to get a passport than to get an animal out of this country. At a time when the EU is phasing out passports in the Community, it is now introducing passports for cattle. What type of common market is this?

The Minister is so inept that he has lost the confidence of many young people. The abolition of the installation aid scheme has ensured that many young prospective farmers are turning their backs on the agricultural industry. One can now hurl marbles in any classroom in agricultural colleges throughout the country as many young people have no incentive to enter the industry. At the same time, the Government is funding each industrial job to the tune of £13,000. The installation aid, and the control of farmyard pollution schemes, must be reintroduced to encourage confidence in the industry.

Many of the problems facing Irish agriculture can be traced back to the MacSharry GATT agreement. The Minister for Agriculture and Food was the Irish representative at the Council of Agriculture Ministers which ratified this on behalf of the Irish Government. Irish beef exports to third country markets were to be dramatically reduced over the term of this agreement. The Minister made the bed and now he expects Irish farmers to sleep in it.

The Farmers' Charter of Rights, introduced by the then Minister, Deputy Yates, was heralded by the Department of Agriculture and Food as a new way forward. However, since the Minister took office this has fallen by the wayside. While bringing forward payments will help alleviate current fodder problems, many families will go hungry this Christmas. Santa Claus will not be arriving down many chimneys unless headage payments are increased and the current crisis is tackled immediately.

The Government has refused to introduce a family income supplement for low income farming families because of the £80 million cost of extending the scheme. By the Government's admission this shows the extent of the crisis in farming. This is due to the Minister who is sitting in the hot seat.

If I was one of the 150,000 families affected and I heard what was said here today, I would have to say the Government was not acting in my best interests. The Minister will do the best he can. However, I deplore the intervention of the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. Not alone is there no FIS, but there is no compassion either. He showed no compassion for Irish farmers today. He said farmers and the self-employed are not entitled to FIS. One of the major demands of every farmer I have met in the past two months has been shot down today. This is a negative debate in that regard. Intervention by the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs will be discussed at every crossroads in the country this winter.

The element of the cost of social welfare has arisen many times over the years. There were several occasions when the EU overruled our social welfare legislation. This cost hundreds of millions of pounds to resolve. This is discrimination against Irish farming families. If we have achieved nothing else tonight, we have flushed out a Minister and a Government who have decided not to help farmers, even though they are entitled to FIS as much as any other low income family.

It was unfortunate that while the Minister did his best to get an increase in refunds, at the same time the European Commission decided to flood the Russian market with intervention beef. Some meat factory salespeople were trying to sell Irish beef against beef which was selling for 23p per pound. This is a cock-eyed policy and something will have to be done at governmental level.

There is a huge difficulty in one of the biggest and most important sectors of the Irish economy. We cannot blame anyone in particular. Thankfully, our economy is awash with money and Ministers are fighting among themselves as to what we will spend it on in the next budget. However, they were united in being able to find £10 million in a most peculiar way. The Minister and the Department had enough time to inform the House about who will benefit from that £10 million and when they will benefit. They promise £10 million but farmers do not know under what rules or conditions. It appears to have been a haphazard decision.

The Independent Deputies now have an opportunity to vote for the people who sent them to the Dáil. If the four rural Independent Deputies vote with the Government tonight, they can only be considered active Fianna Fáil Deputies, not Independents. They certainly will not be representing the people who sent them to the Dáil.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 66.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S.Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Sheehan and Ferris.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Moffatt, Thomas.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Wade, Eddie.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Sheehan and Ferris.

    Amendment declared carried.

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Kenneally, Brendan.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Kirk, Séamus.

    Andrews, David.

    Kitt, Michael.

    Ardagh, Seán.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Aylward, Liam.

    Lawlor, Liam.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Brady, Martin.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    Brennan, Matt.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    Brennan, Séamus.

    McDaid, James.

    Briscoe, Ben.

    McGennis, Marian.

    Browne, John (Wexford).

    McGuinness, John.

    Byrne, Hugh.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Moffatt, Thomas.

    Carey, Pat.

    Molloy, Robert.

    Collins, Michael.

    Moloney, John.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    Cullen, Martin.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    Daly, Brendan.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    Davern, Noel.

    O'Hanlon, Rory.

    Dennehy, John.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    de Valera, Síle.

    O'Kennedy, Michael.

    Doherty, Seán.

    O'Malley, Desmond.

    Ellis, John.

    Power, Seán.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Roche, Dick.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Ryan, Eoin.

    Flood, Chris.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Foley, Denis.

    Smith, Michael.

    Fox, Mildred.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Wade, Eddie.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Healy-Rae, Jackie.

    Wallace, Mary.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Walsh, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Woods, Michael.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Wright, G. V.


    Allen, Bernard.

    Burke, Liam.

    Barnes, Monica.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Belton, Louis.

    Carey, Donal.

    Boylan, Andrew.

    Clune, Deirdre.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Broughan, Thomas.

    Cosgrave, Michael.

    Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Creed, Michael.

    Currie, Austin.

    Mitchell, Jim.

    Deasy, Austin.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    De Rossa, Proinsias.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Dukes, Alan.

    Neville, Dan.

    Durkan, Bernard.

    Noonan, Michael.

    Enright, Thomas.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Farrelly, John.

    O'Keeffe, Jim.

    Ferris, Michael.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    Finucane, Michael.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Fitzgerald, Frances.

    Owen, Nora.

    Flanagan, Charles.

    Penrose, William.

    Gildea, Thomas.

    Perry, John.

    Gilmore, Éamon.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Higgins, Jim.

    Reynolds, Gerard.

    Higgins, Michael.

    Ring, Michael.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Kenny, Enda.

    Sheehan, Patrick.

    McCormack, Pádraic.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    McGahon, Brendan.

    Stanton, David.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    Timmins, Billy.

    McGrath, Paul.

    Upton, Pat.

    McManus, Liz.

    Wall, Jack.

    Mitchell, Gay.

    Yates, Ivan.

    Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to".
    The Dáil divided: Tá, 73; Níl, 60.
    Question declared carried.


    Allen, Bernard.

    Boylan, Andrew.

    Barnes, Monica.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Belton, Louis.

    Broughan, Thomas.

    Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

    McCormack, Pádraic.

    Bruton, Richard.

    McGahon, Brendan.

    Burke, Liam.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    Burke, Ulick.

    McGrath, Paul.

    Carey, Donal.

    Mitchell, Gay.

    Clune, Deirdre.

    Mitchell, Jim.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Cosgrave, Michael.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Creed, Michael.

    Neville, Dan.

    Currie, Austin.

    Noonan, Michael.

    Deasy, Austin.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    O'Keeffe, Jim.

    Dukes, Alan.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    Durkan, Bernard.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Enright, Thomas.

    Owen, Nora.

    Farrelly, John.

    Penrose, William.

    Ferris, Michael.

    Perry, John.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Reynolds, Gerard.

    Fitzgerald, Frances.

    Ring, Michael.

    Flanagan, Charles.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Gildea, Thomas.

    Sheehan, Patrick.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Higgins, Jim.

    Stanton, David.

    Higgins, Michael.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Wall, Jack.

    Kenny, Enda.

    Yates, Ivan.