I wish to share my time with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, and Deputies Johnny Brady and Brendan Smith.
Private Members' Business. - Agriculture Sector: Motion (Resumed).
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome this debate. It is rare that we get an opportunity to debate agricultural matters in the House. I am pleased this debate is taking place, particularly given recent debates on agricultural matters in this country.
We, in Fianna Fáil, have a deep and unique insight into the needs of farmers and the agri-food industry. Our success stems from our unrivalled spread of membership and support throughout rural Ireland, but particularly within the farming community. Before we formulate and implement policies affecting farmers, we carefully determine what is in their best interests. We consult them, listen to their views, take action on their needs, defend their rights and interests and protect the benefits they receive under the Common Agricultural Policy and other relevant international agreements.
We brought farmers into the social partnership process at its inception 16 years ago. That process has been a major factor in our economic success in recent years. Over the years farmers have made a constant and valuable contribution to social partnership. The economy has benefited greatly from that process and farmers and the farming and food industry have had their fair share of that success. Our success in confronting farmers' problems is in stark contrast to Fine Gael whose record on agriculture is one of failure and futile bleating – I am not referring to sheep – mostly from the Opposition benches of this House.
It is not long ago that the then Commissioner Ray MacSharry and the Minister, Deputy Walsh, put the most fundamental reform of the CAP in place. This involved transferring payments away from the meat companies and instead paying the price supports directly to farmers. The system was designed to reward the extensive type farming systems practised in Ireland and was less favourable to intensive systems practised in some other member states. When the Commission subsequently tried to dismantle these favourable arrangements for Irish farming in the Agenda 2000 negotiations, the Minister was on hand again to defend our farmers' interests and to negotiate enhanced payments to our farmers. Members must agree that there were objections to the proposals, but the right decisions were taken at that time.
The package of measures the Minister negotiated brought direct payment rates to record levels. As a result, Irish farmers are now paid €1.6 billion annually in income supports through the Department. We tend to take little notice of the fact that income supports amount to €1.6 billion. I remember talking about millions of pounds years ago, but we are now talking about €1.6 billion. It is an important and increasing element of farmers' annual income and constitutes more than 70% of their total income at present.
The Commission's agreement to allow payment of 80% of the support payments last October was crucial, given the awful weather conditions that farmers suffered throughout last year. This was, of course, only one of a number of significant measures that we in the Department of Agriculture and Food, under the leadership of the Minister, Deputy Walsh, undertook on behalf of farmers because of the many difficulties they faced last year. I acknowledge those difficulties which were brought about by many factors. However, one aspect of these payments is a matter of some concern. Recent data indicates that 82% of farmers receiving direct payments get 43% of the payments, averaging €3,300 per farmer, while the remaining 18% received 57% of the total, averaging €20,000 per farmer. The top 10% of farmers took an average of €27,200 per farmer.
I now turn to the economy in general. The Government is taking less money from workers and companies and Government spending has reduced by almost 10% of GNP. Exchequer spending is only a third of GNP and the budget figures were in surplus up to recently. Public capital spending is more than four times higher and the rate of unemployment has dropped ten percentage points in the last ten years. The national debt is one of the lowest in Europe, at 38% of GNP, and the cost of servicing this debt is lower today, in actual terms, than it was in the mid-1980s. Inflation, although considered high by EU standards at 5%, is far below the 20% mark achieved in the early 1980s.
Those were different times.
Mortgage interest rates, according to the Department of Finance, have fallen from 13% in 1985 to 4.75% today. Speaking of different times, I am long enough in this House to remember more serious crises in farming. I refer particularly to 1974, which I have personal reasons to remember very well. I recall leaving this House on Thursday evenings to spend the following weekend meeting my farming constituents and chairing meetings with banks when interest rates were in excess of 20%, in contrast to today's low rates.
I wish to refer to forestry, having spent some time in the relevant Department in the late 1980s. The Government is committed to the continued development of the forestry sector which is one of the key elements of Ireland's rural development plan. The programme for Government commits to working to increase planting levels to 20,000 hectares per year. Around 90% of planting is currently undertaken by farmers, who increasingly view forestry as a viable land option, particularly in terms of its contribution to local and rural economies. Forestry will also play a pivotal role in the achievement of the Kyoto targets which will benefit us all.
We rightly pride ourselves as producers of prime food. However, in 2001 the value of food imports, excluding beverages, was €3 billion compared with exports of €6 billion. This is not good enough, even allowing for the fact that much of the imports are of a type that are not produced here. I wish to look a little closer at what is taking place in the beef sector. We continue to make strenuous efforts to reopen former markets. Although the Egyptian market is open, we have not been supplying it to any significant extent. I urge processors and the industry generally to take up that challenge. While we try to extend our range of new markets, employing all the available resources of the State in these endeavours, I am concerned that some 11,000 tonnes of beef are imported here annually. Of this, 70% comes from other EU member states and 30% from third countries.
I am at a loss to understand the reasons for these imports. The quantities involved are too great to suggest that they are catering for a niche market. I can only presume the importers are taking advantage of the financial difficulties being experienced in some beef producing countries to import at low prices and, in the process, are attempting to displace prime Irish beef on the home market. While no restrictions can be placed on such trade, which is permissible under Internal Market rules and WTO agreements, it is important that we are aware of the extent of the trade and that we continue to produce the quality of beef for our domestic market that makes it competitive at all levels of consumption.
In this regard, the conclusions of the food labelling group which reported recently are welcome, especially the recommendation that information on the origin of all meats should be indicated, irrespective of outlet. Bord Bia is also concerned about these imports and has initiated a counter measure, the Féile Bia campaign, to raise awareness across the community of the quality characteristics of home produced food products. I endorse that campaign and encourage all hotels, restaurants and food outlets to fully participate in this initiative. By doing so, they will enhance the value of their businesses and contribute in a tangible way to the growth and development of the Irish food industry and the economy in general.
I am pleased the IFA has embarked on a campaign to demand that large supermarkets publicly account for their perceived excessive profit margins where farmers and consumers are concerned, particularly on beef, sheep meat and bacon. I hope it pursues that campaign with vigour until it is successful and I assure the organisation of the full support of my Department. It is outrageous that the primary producer of the highest quality meat is paid a small fraction of the final price the consumer must pay.
The Government is not doing anything about that.
In the context of the latest partnership negotiations against a difficult economic background, significant concessions have been offered to the farming pillar.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
I draw the attention of the Minister of State to the fact that he has now exceeded ten minutes.
I also lost some time, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. We had to adjust.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
It will have to come off the time of subsequent speakers.
We have heard enough already.
I appeal to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as a fellow Kilkennyman. I will conclude shortly.
Will Deputies on this side of the House also get extra time?
The Deputy will have his opportunity later, in addition to his contribution last evening. I could have spoken at greater length about other bad times in farming. I wonder who was in Government then?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
The Minister of State, without interruption.
I wish to refer briefly to a number of issues within the time constraints. Farmers should not forget the massive support they received from all sections of the community during the foot and mouth disease crisis and the goodwill that was generated at that time. They must not forget the massive Exchequer support, in excess of €400 million, provided by this Government for the BSE slaughter for destruction and market support schemes. Most importantly, they must not forget that we are now facing the most fundamental review of the CAP to date. This is a major challenge which has the capacity to change the face of Irish farming. The Commission proposals for the mid-term review of the Agenda 2000 agreement are formulated with a view to meeting the threat in the WTO as well as the increasingly vocal requirements of consumers for safer food and a better physical environment.
Our farm leaders must now focus on the threat to the entire framework within which farmers will produce and sell their products over the next ten to 20 years. They must row in behind the Department of Agriculture and Food and its Minister, Deputy Walsh, in defence of existing CAP support arrangements, as I know they will. For very good reasons, farmers in many countries, including EU countries, are protected to varying degrees from the full rigours of the marketplace and the basic economic laws of supply and demand. In the face of this, countries with little or no such support for their farmers consider that farmers in countries with higher levels of support are trading with unfair advantage on world markets. They are seeking, in the current WTO negotiations, to eliminate what they consider as unfair advantages. The supports provided by the European Union for its farmers are the prime target. European and Irish agriculture has to prepare a robust defence of the CAP in those negotiations.
The threats in the WTO and the Commission's proposals are serious challenges. They transcend any arguments or dissatisfaction the farm organisations may have with the social partnership talks. Farm leaders would be best employed sitting down with the Department and the Minister to devise strategies to meet the robust challenges ahead. The most meaningful way of showing a united front to Commissioner Fischler is as a committed participant in a new partnership programme. We in Fianna Fáil have a vision and a long-term strategy for agriculture that will guide our approach to the major challenges ahead, the mid-term review of the CAP and the WTO negotiations.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Johnny Brady.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak in this debate and to lay on the line what we are doing, not only in agriculture but also in the broader area of rural development. Having served as Minister of State in the then Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I am well aware of the huge debt this country owes to the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, for the contribution he has made during his term of office.
Is the Minister aware of the figures for those leaving the land?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
Deputy Hayes will have his opportunity.
He has been a steady hand at the tiller and, through various difficult negotiations and through the foot and mouth disease crisis, has led Irish farming forward. However, it is about time people faced certain realities, which at times are hard to accept. Having been a Minister of State with responsibility for agriculture and now being Minister with responsibility for rural development, I accept there is a crisis, particularly in the stronger farming areas. That is, in large measure, caused by the World Trade Organisation rules and the CAP rules. Let us be honest, if it was not for CAP, the flight from the land would be much faster.
There are huge challenges for the future. There are certain fundamentals we must recognise. It takes more and more land, no matter how it is used given the present rules and regimes under which we must work, to make a comparative income. The reality is, for example, that farmers with marginal land made a similar living 20 years ago as farmers with better land now. We recognised the difficulty for those on marginal land 20 years ago and we knew that the only way forward for a large number of farmers was a diversified rural economy. As we move more towards world prices and pressures on the CAP, which we can try to modulate but which we do not absolutely control, we must look at new ways of sustaining rural society.
The spatial strategy published recently contains a clear vision for the development of rural Ireland. That vision must be one of mixed development. For example, the reality in the western countries is that the number of full-time farmers under 50 years of age is very small. This is because we had two choices, either amalgamate all the farms into very large farms or face the reality that there had to be some other income going into most farm households to make up an adequate family income. Those who do not want to recognise these realities and want to bury their heads in the sand are welcome to do so, but those who ignore the trends of the future will drive many more people off the land than those who say that the solution is to have a good, strong mixed economy in rural areas so that there are off-farm opportunities for farm families compatible with staying in part-time farming.
The debate must move forward in a realistic framework. I hope that those on the Opposition side who take part in this debate do not try to delude the people that we will be able to go back to a level of pricing in agriculture where people will be able to get a comparative industrial wage from 20 or 30 acres of land. That is not feasible and I think everybody on the Opposition side knows that is the case.
Of course my Department will be looking for funds for rural development. We will be looking to develop a strong diversified rural economy, but I want to make it absolutely clear that we will not be seeking to do that on the backs of Irish farmers. We are totally in support of the Minister, Deputy Walsh, in ensuring that the money which goes directly into agriculture continues to go into agriculture and that any money allocated to rural development will come from sources other than agriculture. To rob agriculture of the money and divert it to rural development would be to try to solve a problem by exacerbating or creating a bigger problem.
The aim in the future is obviously to maintain as many farm families on the land as possible. We should take a flexible approach to this. We should take a family approach and allow people work out exactly how they are to do that. The alternative vision would be to say that we would only have full-time farmers and that ranch-style farming would be the solution for the future. That is certainly not my vision. Many farmers have proven that either they or their spouses – we should look at this as a family set-up – can earn off-farm income and can, in some cases, earn a diversified farm income from some other activity such as tourism while at the same time being very successful farmers.
Having worked in the milieu of the west coast where 30 years ago we had to move towards part-time farming, it has always seemed that young farmers who remained in farming but also had an off-farm income were often in a position to farm better than those who were trying to earn a full-time living off the land because they had a two-way bet. They could afford to take the ups and downs and they had a steady income. They could invest in the farm and take the longer view. It sustained families and gave an adequate income.
One must remember that even though the vast majority of production comes from the good lands of the midlands, south and east, a huge number of farm families are dependent on very small farms, on good land and particularly in the areas of marginal land. Sometimes when we debate agriculture we think only in terms of production and not in terms of households. Obviously my preoccupation is the quality of life of the people who, whether they have five acres on the Aran Islands or 5,000, 500 or 50 acres, are working the land of this country. My view is that each person is equally important. Each, as a citi zen, is entitled to an equal living in the country as far as we can give it. Therefore I say to those who, when they talk about farming, dismiss out of hand small farmers and farmers on marginal land, that these farmers are as important to farming because it is part of their livelihood as it is part of the livelihood of the big producing farmers.
Tá go leor rudaí eile ar mhaith liom a rá. Tá iarracht iontach déanta ag an Rialtas seo. Deimhin cinnte go bhfuil talamhaíocht na hÉireann i gcaoi an-mhaith. Tá mé cinnte, chomh fada is a leanann an tAire, an Teachta Joe Walsh, i mbun an chúraim, nach mbeidh baol go fheirm eile na hÉireann.
There is no doubt that the recent official data which show a fall in farm income clearly underlines the fact that 2002 has been a difficult year for farmers. This was caused by a combination of unprecedented bad weather, a drop in beef slaughterings from the high levels in 2001 and reduced market returns in areas such as dairying, resulting in an overall income decline for the year. I acknowledge that my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, recognised at an early stage the warning signs with regard to farm incomes and instigated a series of actions to alleviate the problem. These included stronger market supports for dairy products, the removal of the Russian county ban on beef exports, increases in beef export refunds, an 80% advance in bovine premia payments, earlier payments of the 50% advance in arable aid, the use of set-aside land for grazing-fodder, simplification in the REPS application and improvements in the farm assist scheme. The combined effect of these measures was to reduce the impact of poorer market returns to farmers and prevent a much greater reduction in farm incomes.
In 2002 the output value of most sectors was down from the exceptional levels of 2001 and inputs increased partly due to the adverse weather conditions. On a positive note, direct payments to farmers of €1.6 billion helped to support farm incomes and will continue to do so this year. These represented in 2002 an average payment of about €13,000 per farm, with about 125,000 farms in receipt of payments. Total support for the agri-food sector in 2002, including direct payments, market supports, disease control and research, training and advisory services, amounted to €2.8 billion. These are considerable sums by any standard and underline the support the Government is giving to farming.
The support farmers received during the foot and mouth and BSE crises is part of a continuing process where the Government recognises the problems facing Irish farmers and responds in full. The Government is aware of the problems facing farming. There are problems and it is committed, in co-operation with the farming organisations, to solving them.
Direct payments are the major part of most small farmers' incomes. The system of modu lation proposed by the EU Commission would reduce the direct payment to these farmers, who may only receive over €5,000 in payments. Modulation cannot be justified in these circumstances. Providing funding for rural development at the expense of farm incomes, which have always been the mainstay of rural economies, is a contradiction. Modulation would have a direct effect on different farming sectors. Sectors that do not depend as heavily on direct payments would not suffer the same adverse effect as the beef and sheep sectors. The effects of modulation would be disproportionate and I am glad the Minister, Deputy Walsh, made this clear to the Council of Ministers.
Last week the Minister strongly opposed the Commission's proposals on the mid-term review. With his experience in negotiations over recent years, I have no doubt that he will continue to do that and secure the best possible deal for agriculture, rural Ireland and the farming community.
I cannot but be struck by the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Aylward who said:
Before we formulate and implement policies affecting farmers, we carefully determine what is in their best interests. We consult them, listen to their views, take action on their needs, defend their rights and interests and protect the benefits they receive . . .
I wonder if I am living in the same country. I attended a meeting in Killarney Heights on Monday night at which 400 farmers from north and south Kerry and part of west Cork attended. No member of the Government party was there to listen, consult, heed or offer advice. Here were 400 farmers who had come together to describe the drastic situation they endure – the alarming fall in farm income, the rising costs and their determination to remain viable and be part of Irish society.
I grew up on a small farm. I remember 1966 when tens of thousands of farmers took to the streets. They came to the capital from every town in the country to seek justice. It is ironic that just a few weeks ago the farming community had to do something similar to bring to the attention of the Government and the wider public the terrible situation they are compelled to endure as a result of the lack of consultation and the refusal to address their needs. That is what the Government has done to farmers.
I listened to the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, and his sincerity in seeking to preserve the fabric of society in the west. What has the Government done to preserve it? Tens of thousands of farmers have been forced to leave the land over the past 30 years. Their children grew up in an environment that was separated from their culture because of a lack of Government commitment and funding to maintain their viability and survival. Major problems are facing us. The farming community took to the streets a few weeks ago in desperation so the leadership of their organisation could bring their situation to the Government's attention.
The Government Deputies say nothing is wrong and speak about all the Government has done. I listened to the 400 men and women in Killarney. According to a report on the front page of our local newspaper, the only reason small and medium farmers are able to survive is that their wives go out to work to subsidise the household income. This affects more than the farming community, it is a rural problem.
Ireland does not finish at a 50 mile radius around Dublin. The west and south-west of Ireland have been decimated by Government neglect. The small farming community has been wiped out by neglect. It is time the Government gave the rural community's needs equality of treatment with the rest of the country. The fishing community has been decimated. The shopkeeper is gone from rural Ireland, post offices are closing and Garda barracks are gone. Now the local national schools are gone. The collectivisation of our people, driven by the Government and Europe, exists for one reason, to decimate and break the morale and determination of those who are prepared to fight to live in rural communities.
Lest the Government forget, it was the small farming community that built this State. Many people employed in this building and in the public service came from small farming communities. Let us get things straight and be honest with the people who have done this. When farmers take to the streets in the numbers they did and with the support of rural Ireland, they deserve to be listened to and heeded. Their needs and requirements are the same as everybody else's.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
Applause from the Visitors Gallery is not allowed.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Cowley and Connolly.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Agriculture and farming are important components of the economies of almost every county. They are particularly important in Sligo-Leitrim, both as job creators and contributors to sustaining services in the area. Indeed, this is an area where alternative means of creating economic activity are inhibited by deficient infrastructure. While I agree with the vision of the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, of a mixed rural economy, that is simply not possible without adequate infrastructure.
Farming and the spin-off processing and service sectors, which depend on the output of the farms of Sligo-Leitrim, are essential to the economic and social fabric of our area. However, every year, indeed every month, farmers are leaving the land because they simply cannot make a living. If an industry in Sligo-Leitrim employing even 100 people was threatened with closure, as happened in Ballinasloe last week, the response from Government would be to institute a campaign to replace the lost jobs. Why not make at least as strong an effort to preserve the jobs in farming and in the spin-off sectors in places like Sligo-Leitrim by giving them the necessary support now rather than bemoan the fact when it is too late to do anything constructive?
There is an immediate way by which the Government could lend some substance to its lip service to farmers. It could immediately withdraw the increase in disease levies, as proposed in the budget, or abolish the levies. It could bring forward the funds necessary to make the REPS attractive enough to farmers to encourage them to participate in it. The numbers participating in the scheme are falling all the time because it is not attractive enough to encourage participation. The Government could decouple the green land and commonage in the commonage framework plans so that sheep farmers, particularly in the west, would have an opportunity to make a living.
In the context of the real concern for the future of agriculture due to CAP reform, there are two areas which merit attention. The first is research, to ensure that farmers are able to produce at lowest cost. This is essential. Organic production also affords a valuable niche opportunity. It is unacceptable that Teagasc plans to close its research farm in Ballinamore, a centre which has done excellent work in producing information of great value to those working on difficult land. It also appears that Teagasc is considering closing the organic farm research facility in Athenry. This is a regressive step, but if it is pursued, I advocate that the excellent work being done in the field at the organic centre in Rossinver, County Leitrim, be expanded with substantial State support. I say to the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, that if they are happy to let this facility go in Athenry, we would be delighted to get it in Rossinver.
Farmers are the backbone of the economy, particularly in rural areas. Over the past few years we have witnessed the exit of thousands of farmers from the land in Mayo. This process is being accelerated by the daft planning laws in place at the moment whereby even a farmer's son or daughter cannot live beside his or her father. We are forcing all these people into towns and cities, where there are too many people already. Then there is the whole situation regarding the implementation of the commonage framework plan, which is threatening the livelihoods of 4,500 farmers in remote mountain areas who are being forced to de-stock 150,000 sheep. There is an appeal system in place, but it depends on the support of 20% of people. So much for the rights of the individual farmer.
The financial loss caused by the reduction of Mayo's sheep quota by over 55,000 was devastating for many rural DEDs. This loss of sheep quota alone takes €1.5 million across the board out of the struggling rural areas of County Mayo. In Mayo, this is the equivalent of the loss of a 100-job industry. There is clear discrimination against sheep farmers who have both commonage and lowland, and the need to decouple these has been well highlighted.
Farm income fell by 8.5% this year and the value of subsidies rose to 68% of total revenue, according to the CSO. Sheep farmers were hit worst of all, with their income falling by almost one third, while the value of milk output fell by 10%, cereals by 22% and pigs by 14%. If one adds inflation, the terrible fact is that farmers have suffered an income decline of almost 13% in real terms. It is no surprise, therefore, that 2002 was the worst year in farming over the last decade. While bad weather has been a factor, the main problem is falling prices for products. If product prices are reduced to a level far below the cost of production, it is a recipe for disaster. If this is not a crisis, what is?
Then we have the talk in Europe of decoupling and so on. So much for the work ethic. So much for the rights of people to stay on the land. Those who are staying on their land are having their pride taken away. Even the Church of Ireland is speaking out against this, which is very important. When farmers end up transferring a substantial part of their CAP payments to the suppliers, processors or consumers, it is time to shout "stop". Then there is the scandalous situation regarding the designation, implementation and compensation of SSEs. This has been most unsatisfactory and there is a need for greater clarity. The situation regarding over-designation of land and SSEs must be looked at and adequate compensation paid to those affected.
A combination of last summer's appalling weather conditions and the inordinate price cuts squeeze has left the farming community reeling from its worst crisis in decades. This has cost the average farming family €10,000 in 2002 alone and the silage disaster has added another 20%, averaging €1,800, to the cost of bought-in feeds for the average milk producer. Farm businesses have had a nightmare experience in endeavouring to meet financial commitments, having suffered a 35% erosion in their incomes on average, which has also severely impacted upon family living expenses.
Irish milk producers meticulously follow EU regulations, invariably to their own detriment, while heavily subsidised American producers flood world markets with cheaper product. It is a matter of urgency that the Government intervenes to bring much needed relief to farmers. No other sector of the community has taken such a hit in incomes as farmers. The Government has failed to put in place any appropriate strategies to address the dire state of the farming sector.
All bar 16% of County Monaghan is designated as disadvantaged. Another 8% of the county meets the criteria for such designation, while all of the remainder of Connacht-Ulster is already deemed disadvantaged. This glaring anomaly is crying out to be rectified. The Government's failure to produce a viability aid package to assist farmers worst affected by last summer's severe weather is to be condemned, as is its indifference to the IFA's proposal for a further nation-wide assessment by Teagasc to targeted aid. This targeted aid package was the bottom line for the farming community, and it has been conspicuously lacking so far.
In the horticultural sector, Deputy Harney's proposal to limit the availability of non-European Economic Area labour by reducing the number of work permits issued will have disastrous consequences for the Irish horticulture industry. In recent years the horticulture industry has undergone dramatic changes and is now firmly dependent on non-EEA workers since the source of Irish labour dried up during the heyday of the Celtic tiger. An economic collapse of major proportions would be required before horticultural producers would be able to source Irish or EEA labourers, who do not find the nature of this work attractive.
I appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to come to the aid, even rescue, of the farming sector with a targeted emergency relief package aimed at relieving farmers deemed to be in greatest need. The participation of farmers' organisations as social partners in the ongoing pay talks to secure a partnership agreement will depend on the Government's response.
I am glad of the opportunity to contribute to this debate, and I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Upton, who is my party's spokesperson on agriculture, on her contribution to the debate. I am glad that so many speakers referred to the demise of rural Ireland. I spent ten years in this House advocating particular policies to try to arrest that trend but nobody listened.
I told this House about the farming community being the backbone of the rural economy. I know that because we own a shop, and when times are hard we know which sector of the economy is particularly affected. I also indicated that a significant number of people were not benefiting under the current direct payments system. I warned of the impasse at which we have now arrived.
I know elderly rural people who, because of the strangulation of bureaucracy, never filled out a form for a subsidy in their lives. I know an 86-year-old woman, a small livestock farmer, who was in this situation. I am glad to see some of the farming organisations now speaking out on this because I made these points in this House many times on behalf of the people who live in the boreens of rural Ireland. Nobody else shouted "stop". I was a lone voice in the wilderness at times. I said that the system of payments had to stop. If there is €2 million available in subsidies, it is important that the small farmer gets a reasonably fair share of it. Many of them did not, of course. The people I am speaking about never got a penny in subsidies.
The system will have to change to recognise the plight of those people as well. I warned of that. I remember, on one trip abroad, advocating the importance of the beef industry. I told people that we have the best beef, and so we have. People told me, however, that we can still only get one in four of our cattle onto the prime supermarket outlets across the world, particularly in the high-priced continental market. We should have been paying differential payments to encourage farmers to move into that market niche that offered greatest profits. The Minister for Agriculture and Food must face up to that. I speak as someone who advocated the cause of the beef finishers. They were wiped off the face of the Earth. They were missed from the ring every Tuesday or Wednesday in marts throughout the country. They were there previously, bidding and helping small storage farmers to survive.
Like most of my generation, I believed that farm incomes could be increased by a combination of increasing farm output, controlling costs and scaling up to reduce overheads. Of course we have to have a differential and recognise the social and utility value of those small farmers. I agree with Deputy Cowley, we often make it more difficult for small farmers to survive through planning levels etc. An elderly farmer will often need his or her son or daughter to help him or her. We should realise the socio-economic input this has had.
The world trade talks and mid-term review are extremely important. Cognisance must be taken of the fact that the American farm bill provided an additional $40 billion. It is clear that the Americans have shown scant regard for the agreements they have entered, as they have done elsewhere. There is no point in only Ireland obeying all the rules.
Bureaucracy strangles farmers. I do not know what happened to the appeals system but I do not hear of any great results coming from it. We spent hours on the floor of this House working to refine it. I understood that one could represent a farmer who feels hard done by with the finicky penalisation of REPS, but I must have misunderstood. It is no wonder there has been such a poor uptake of REPS. If a farmer cuts a bush he will lose 10%. This is ludicrous. It is no wonder people are drifting away from the land. One would need to be a lawyer and accountant to be a farmer.
Agriculture employs 200,000 people and provides 10% of GDP. I remember times when it was claimed that markets could be opened like switching on a light. I remember the con-jobs that were perpetrated. I remember being in the Red Cow Inn and what was said there. I remember people being fooled and taken in by this nonsense. There was a time when one wondered what aeroplane would arrive with a delegation to take cattle with them. A few thousand tons was put on one boat but nothing happened after that.
Only a couple of bullocks.
I am disappointed the farming community was taken in by such nonsensical talk.
The Minister has reduced Teagasc's budget and is closing Athenry college. REPS is so badly strangled with bureaucracy that no one in his or her right mind would partake in it. The enhancement of the environment and contribution towards pollution control is an area that would benefit from a cost-benefit analysis. The Minister should allocate more money to this.
I look forward to the Finance Bill where there will have to be a U-turn. The N6, N4 and N52 run through Westmeath. We spent months negotiating a reasonable price for land for farmers. The budget had the biggest U-turn of all. I look forward to seeing who has the power at Cabinet to ensure the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, makes changes to capital gains tax and roll-over tax relief.
I wish to share time with Deputies Connaughton, Crawford and Naughten.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I have seen the devastation of rural Ireland over the past ten years. The Government kept telling us things were good when there was a mass exodus from farming throughout the country. In County Limerick in 1991 there were 7,366 farms and that number dropped to 6,186 in 2000, a decrease of 16%. Since then, farming organisations and those of us close to the land know this flight has accelerated. The number of full-time farmers in Limerick has dropped by more than 1,600, or 27%, since 1990. This is due to income loss. People cannot afford to live on the income afforded by small to medium sized farms – to say anything else is to attempt to perpetrate a con-job but the farming community will not believe it.
Our local newspaper reported on the village of Mountcollins in County Limerick. At one time it had seven shops but it now has two. Enrolment at the local school fell from 107 to 52 in five years. This is as bad as the worst emigration experienced in the 1940s and 1950s in communities such as this in west Limerick.
There were 180 milk producers in Limerick when Ireland entered the EEC; now there are 22 and Teagasc predicts it will be three in ten years' time. This reflects the utter devastation of rural communities. Unless the Government introduces policies to address the income of farmers this will continue. People will only return to the land when they see incomes improve.
The Minister should, as a matter of urgency, reverse the decision to double the disease levies and withdraw the abolition of the roll-over tax relief for CPOs. This would be a small start.
The Minister is in for a spring and summer of the greatest agricultural discontent this nation has seen and he has brought it all on himself. He is the best man I have ever met for blaming outside influences for problems. He has direct responsibility for disease levies. The Ministers for Agriculture and Food and Finance decided to break the agreement between all farmers and the Department of Agriculture and Food. Five years ago the Department decided farmers would pay for the first tests for TB and brucellosis and for this, the disease levies would be halved or removed. When the Minister got the chance in the Estimates, he did the mean thing and doubled them. This is only a small thing but it shows the regard the Government has for the farming community.
Farmers will, no doubt, soon have to pay for the beef assurance scheme. I am told that 20% of the suckler cow grant that was due from 2000 will not be paid until next April or May when everybody else is already paid. I find it difficult to understand why the Minister stands over this as it is within his remit.
I have trouble with the way the Government is dealing with the Fischler proposals. Three figures stand out in the proposals: 70 cent per gallon of milk, 70 cent per pound of beef and €70 per ton of grain. How does the Minister expect farmers to make a living in the future? I believe the talk about decoupling is a red herring. The main issue is whether a farmer can make a decent living for his family. I cannot see this happening under the Fischler proposals as they stand.
I remember the Minister being at a press conference at Mellows College in Athenry. He stood ten feet tall, he said Irish agriculture needed this, but as soon as the farm was set up he decided to close it. I understand that the rural economy division will be based in Athenry as a sop, but the Government will close the rest of it.
Farmers' backs are to the wall like never before and the dire income in farming is threatening the survival of full-time family farming. With farming already in crisis, the Government put the boot in with spending cuts to the tune of €200 million in the budget and measures such as the increased disease levy, the abolition of the roll-over tax relief for the CPO of land and cutbacks in the national development plan commitments.
The Government promised in the programme for Government to open the markets. It promised the introduction of tax relief for farmers. It underpinned the beef industry by the national beef assurance scheme and promised farm development funding, but it has reneged on all that.
The income crisis is due to the collapse in farm prices, which are not even covering the cost of production. However, the price of foodstuffs on the supermarket shelf has not gone down. Where has that money gone? For example, Irish Food Processors' pre-tax profits grew by 320% since 1999. According to the latest accounts for March 2002, the company saw an operating profit of €38 million. Mr. Goodman has taken out €41 million in dividends since he regained 100% ownership of that company.
Irish agriculture supports 300,000 workers not only in farming but in the food industry. The only action the Minister has taken to date to support these workers is to try to close the smaller slaughtering plants and reduce working hours in the bigger plants. Since 1 January this year, these plants have been told by the Department that it is reducing the hours for which inspectors are available. As a consequence, some plants will now have to close for up to as much as one week every month. This is to try to force out competition, which helps support prices for farmers. However, the consumer is the big loser, with small operations which keep the big players from controlling the domestic market being forced out of business – so much for consumer protection and lower prices. This is compounded by the policy of the Department of Agriculture and Food in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to buy out and close some of these smaller plants.
The rural economy is inextricably linked to agriculture. Weakening agriculture and food production will undermine these jobs, especially in the current economic climate. The Minister, Deputy Walsh, is neither willing nor able to do anything positive to help the farming community. I remember sitting across from the Minister when he appeared on "Prime Time" and he talked about developing new products and business for Irish agriculture. One of the areas was organic farming. What has he done to develop new products and a growing market for organic produce? He has closed it down. That shows the level of his commitment to his priority for new products and the development of alternative enterprises for farmers. I ask the Minister to shape up or ship out.
I rise to respond to the Minister's brilliant speech last night. He wants us to remember his record of action. His record of action this year, following the most appalling weather conditions last year, is that he organised and agreed to a 9% cut in the Book of Estimates, 44% in the farm development section, 19% in REPS and 13% in respect of An Bord Bia and Teagasc. He then appeared on television and said that farmers need better advice and could do better marketing. How can they do that when he removes the necessary tools from them? He went on to double the disease levies. The Government removed the roll-over on capital tax.
I miss two Members from the Chamber, the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, and Deputy Ned O'Keeffe—
They are in the Gallery.
—who, on the tractorcade, were helpful and committed to Irish farmers. We do not have shipments of live cattle or meat to Egypt, except for the election package.
The Minister, Deputy Walsh, stated that farmers get an income of €45,000 per year. He also said that farmers eligible for the farm assist scheme are in receipt of an income of €13,000. He said that he hoped that some 15,000 farmers would be eligible for the scheme, but only 8,000 farmers participate in it and they are in receipt of less than half of the income he suggested to the general public.
There is a misinformation campaign to try to divide farmers from the rest of community. In his contribution to this debate, the Minister said the Government gave €2.8 million from the Exchequer to farmers. However, only €0.8 million of that amount was taxpayers' money, as €2 million of it was compensation money from Brussels. That represents another attempt to cause division.
The Danish Government works with its pig farmers. Only this week a friend of mine, one of the few pig farmers left in County Cavan, met the Danish authorities and was assured they work with the Danish pig farmers to come to sensible arrangements.
I have a letter from the Minister, Deputy Cullen's, personal secretary, to the effect that there will be no meeting until the Bill is imposed and that those concerned will then have the right to put in place some type of new structures. We need the withdrawal of the €10 million disease levy, the reinstatement of the roll-over tax relief for the CPO of land and the consolidation of holdings. We need a workable agreement for the nitrate directive with a REPS and farm buildings programmes. It is a fact that people with degrees – I am not talking about ordinary farmers – make mistakes in filling out some of the forms required. We need a commitment from the Government to fight for the needs of our farmers at European and WTO level. There are three Ministers here, three wise men.
I thank the Deputy for saying that.
There is certainly a great deal to be learned from their lack of commitment to farming in the past eight months. It is a different commitment from that which they gave before the general election, and farmers will not forget that.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Timmins.
That is agreed.
This has been an interesting debate. I thank Deputies Timmins and Hayes for the way they outlined the issues. I also thank all the other speakers who laid out the problems, as we see them from an Opposition perspective. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, is a fast mover.
The problems of farmers are not being addressed at the same rate.
I will be winding up the debate on behalf of the Government. At least allow me the democratic right to wind up the debate.
We believe in democracy and we believe in the truth, which is not what we were told last year.
That time slot was lost as a result of the vote at 7 p.m.
Nobody informed me of that. We took two speakers off the list to allow for that time slot, which was reduced—
We know what the wind up of the debate by the Minister of State on behalf of the Government will be.
That is in accordance with a long-standing practice of the House. The Chair has no control over it.
It will be no different from what the Minister read out last night. It will be of no real value.
We are listening to an Opposition bereft of ideas.
Having listened to the debate and having dealt with farmers and farming organisations during recent months, the problem is that the Government and the Minister, in particular, have neither a vision nor a clear understanding of where we should be going in terms of farming futures, careers and incomes for the years ahead.
I had the doubtful privilege of co-chairing the World Trade Organisation talks in Singapore in 1996. It was perfectly obvious then that Argentina, New Zealand and Australia would mount a ferocious campaign in terms of the structure of the CAP, farming incomes and farming on a global scale, and that is beginning to take root in a serious manner.
The farmers in the Gallery and those throughout the country have lost the hope that the Government can deal with their problems. I have not heard a speaker mention that Ireland will hold the Presidency of the European Union next year. There does not appear to be any clarity as to the action that the Minister can take on behalf of the Government and that the Government can take on behalf of farmers to sustain farm incomes, to give some hope to young people in terms of farming careers and to dictate that kind of future.
Commissioner Fischler obviously wants to leave behind a legacy of some sort of reform in terms of the CAP. This contract is up to the end of 2006. We do not even know whether the Government can hold the line on that, never mind deal with the moneys in the budget that are there up to 2013. The first step that should be taken is to have confirmation from the Minister, on behalf of the Government and the people, that the 2006 contract stands. That, at least, would give us some time to consider what options are open to us between 2006 and 2013, and thereafter. If Commissioner Fischler wants to do this and Prime Minister Berlusconi wants to have the next Treaty of Rome signed in Rome during his Presidency, that means that the issues concerning Europe in the next Intergovernmental Conference would have to be decided on by the people in a referendum, but I do not envisage that fitting into the timescale that is involved here.
The issues of destocking, of green land and the designation of areas cause immense concern to farmers and those who might aspire to become involved in farming. I ask the Minister and his fellow Ministers of State to explain why it is that when an area is to be designated it appears on the paper as afait accompli. Why are farmers in the area not approached and the scientific reasons for the proposed designation outlined to them? It is only a matter of courtesy. It causes controversy and rising antagonism when these announcements appear in newspapers stating that an area has been designated and farmers have no option but to comply with it.
We have a commendable level of traceability and Irish beef and foodstuffs can be traced back. However, at the same time, a person may purchase pub grub that comprises beef approved by the EU but from an unknown source and without the same element of traceability. That is a cause of concern and frustration to producers in this country, especially young farmers.
It is an undoubted fact that incomes have fallen. The Minister has been operating in Europe on false figures and it is not like him to do something like that. He should be able to say to the farming community what Fianna Fáil stands for in government. This question is often asked of us. We stand for the preservation of life in rural areas, clear farming structures, farming careers and incomes. We are clear on this. We should hold the line until 2006 to give us breathing space to consider what we must do between 2006 and 2013. If the Minister cannot manage that, he should not be in the position he is in because the fate and livelihood of thousands depends on him. They have lost hope that he has clarity or vision as to what the Government wants for the farming community.
Rural and provincial Ireland is going down the tubes. Other areas and sectors do not want any more houses built in their areas. They do not want people returning from England or America to live with their kith and kin and to play whatever role they can within the farming community. It is a long time – 30 years ago – since the late Sean Flanagan said that farming was heading to a position where part-time farming would become the norm and where it would be essential given the structures that would be put in place. I met a farmer in Drogheda last week who, with 220 acres and working 20 hours a day, could barely make it pay. Despite this, because 15 acres are alongside the motorway, he could have afforded to lose €20,000 for the next ten years and still have something left over. However, the Minister abolished roll-over relief and has forced this man from the land.
The Minister should focus on holding the line until 2006 and beyond to 2013. The Irish Presidency next year should avail of the opportunity given to other small agricultural countries to build allies so that farm structures, livelihoods and incomes that have been the bedrock of the country for decades will not be lost because of the Minister's incompetence.
I regret the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, did not get an opportunity to close the debate for the Government. We lost ten minutes and it is something that should be taken up by the Minister of State's office. I thank those who spoke—
I was informed that I was to speak at 8.20 p.m.
The Government Whip runs the business of the House. I thank those who spoke in support of the motion. I would like to put one issue to bed. I said that all the problems of agriculture do not begin and end with the Minister, Deputy Walsh, that they are the Government's responsibility. I outlined that the Taoiseach, in his usualmodus operandi, would seek to replace the Minister in 12 or 18 months after our EU Presidency, perhaps with the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, who made a good speech this evening.
What the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, outlined was aspirational. He spoke about housing in rural areas and the national spatial strategy, a document that exists purely for optics. It is important to point out so that people do not have false hopes that the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, has nothing to do with the provision of housing in rural areas. It is a matter for local authorities. We read in the newspapers that he was the great white hope, but he has done nothing to encourage this area.
The Ceann Comhairle knows that people from north Meath can become animated about agricultural issues, as Deputy Brady, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, normally does. However, when he was present in the Chamber last night, he kept his head down. Silence construes consent. He knows that con ditions are difficult. That drove home a message to me.
The Minister stated that the record of the Government speaks for itself. It certainly does. That is why we tabled this motion. We agree with the second half of the motion—
On a point of order, what Deputy Timmins said about me is not true. I did not hold my head down. I am proud to hold my head up where the Government is concerned.
The Deputy should allow Deputy Timmins to speak without interruption.
What about Proinsias De Rossa who said when he was in government that farmers were a greedy lot?
Deputy Brady, please.
We tabled the motion because agriculture is an important issue. Some 200,000 people are employed in the sector which accounts for 9.5% of gross domestic product and had exports in the region of €7 billion last year. Despite this, farm incomes fell by 8.5%. This is a serious issue.
Let us go back over what the Government has done. It spoke about opening up markets. What markets has it opened? The Egyptian market reopened in September 2001 and there was one shipment of 60-plus tonnes in April 2002. There was nothing before and nothing since, and that shipment was heavily subsidised. It was an election gimmick.
The Minister spoke about underpinning the beef industry with the national beef assurance scheme. This was passed by the House in 1998 and has not yet been implemented. Neither has the dairy herd certification scheme which is vitally important to the dairy industry – as I pointed out to the Minister, €32 million was lost in his home county last year because of a drop in prices.
The Government spoke about reinforcing Teagasc but took €12 million from it. Now the agency intends to close the only organic college in the country in Athenry. I hope that does not happen and that the Minister uses his influence to prevent it.
On environmental measures, we repaid €30 million to Europe for the REP scheme because it was insufficiently attractive to farmers. Inputs were too costly and there was too much red tape and planning.
We spoke about developing farm waste management and improving structures and equipment to increase our competitiveness. The national development plan put aside a certain figure and it was cut back by €23 million in the Estimates. This is the record. There is no denying or getting away from it.
The Government said it would consider as a matter of urgency tax incentives for young farm ers, but nothing appeared in the budget except for the abolition of roll-over relief, a relief that the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, negotiated. We do not have difficulty with a person paying taxes, but when a person must pay capital gains on an asset that he or she has had to dispose of unwillingly—
I negotiated €50,000 per acre.
The Minister of State rolled over.
He should have stood up.
I will give the Minister of State the benefit of the doubt. He probably knew nothing about it until it appeared on budget day.
Bovine disease levies were the straw that broke the camel's back. There was a small increase from €10 million to €20 million.
Who introduced them?
They were introduced in 1996 with agreement.
With agreement of the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon.
Who introduced farm re-organisation and the super levy?
The Government has done nothing.
Deputy Connaughton should not provoke the Minister of State and the Minister should allow Deputy Timmins to speak.
The Government spoke about getting rid of red tape. It got rid of the tag-a-bag scheme and now it wants to put that second tag in sheeps' ears – I understand that there will now be two tags in sheeps' ears. That is a good way of getting rid of red tape.
During the tractorcade, the Minister sought to undermine farmers and it backfired on him. The Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, spoke in favour of the farmers and intimated that the bovine disease levies were not a good thing.
Deputy Ned O'Keeffe is not present. He is like the Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps he will come out from behind the curtain when the vote is called. He stepped up on the side of a tractor during the protest in support of farmers but he will not step out in favour of them now. He had his opportunity.
I have no problem with someone introducing a difficult measure, but they should defend it if they support it at the time. If they do not defend it, they should vote against it. The Fianna Fáil press office set out to undermine farmers and they sent out Deputy Ardagh. Deputy Glennon was not silly enough to go out because he knows the difficulties the farmers in north County Dublin are experiencing. He knows the difficulties with the prospective abolition of Bord Glais and the problems that is causing for many vegetable growers. However Deputy Ardagh took the hit in a well-orchestrated event.
I regret we do not have enough time to discuss agricultural issues. Just once in the past six months, during the discussion of the Estimates, have we had a debate here. I ask the Minister to use his influence with the Taoiseach to give more time to agriculture, which gives employment to 200,000 people and was worth €7 billion last year. When I go down the country, farmers say they never hear anyone talking about agriculture. It is not that we do not talk, but it gets no coverage. People talk about the politicians not being in the House, but where are the media when they are needed to put forward the message that people are willing to stand up for them. I commend this motion to the House.
Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Andrews, Barry.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Séamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.
Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Finneran, Michael.Fleming, Seán.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony. Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McDowell, Michael.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.O'Connor, Charlie.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.
Blaney, Niall.Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Fox, Mildred.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.
Kehoe, Paul.Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Morgan, Arthur.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Shea, Brian.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Séamus.Penrose, Willie.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.
Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Andrews, Barry.Aylward, Liam.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Cullen, Martin.Dempsey, Noel.Dempsey, Tony.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John. Finneran, Michael.
Fleming, Seán.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McDowell, Michael.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Donovan, Denis.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Parlon, Tom.Power, Peter.Power, Seán.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.Wright, G. V.
Blaney, Niall.Boyle, Dan.Breen, James.Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Burton, Joan.Connaughton, Paul.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Cowley, Jerry.Crawford, Seymour.Cuffe, Ciarán.Deasy, John.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Ferris, Martin.Fox, Mildred.Gilmore, Eamon.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Hogan, Phil.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.
Kenny, Enda.Lynch, Kathleen.McGrath, Finian.McGrath, Paul.McHugh, Paddy.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Morgan, Arthur.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Murphy, Gerard.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Pattison, Seamus.Penrose, Willie.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.