(Cavan) asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will appoint a West Cavan sheep producer to An Chomhairle Olla having regard to the fact that West Cavan is an extensive sheep producing area and has not been given representation on the board.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - An Chomhairle Olla.
As I announced on 9th May, I have appointed six representatives of wool producers to be members of An Chomhairle Olla, in addition to four representing the wool trade. I do not propose to add to this number.
Can the Minister give any good reasons why representatives from Cavan and other sheep producing areas were not appointed? Can he tell us why no member of the NFA was appointed on this board? Would he not agree that all the appointments are political appointments and is he still at war with the NFA despite what the Taoiseach said about co-operating with voluntary bodies?
The Deputy tried to keep up the war long enough.
In reply to Deputy L'Estrange, I am thankful he raised this in this way. I do not even know if some of those appointed are in the NFA, the ICMSA, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, or anywhere else.
Does the Minister not think he ought to know? Does the Minister not think he ought to ask the NFA? Why should he not ask?
Why should I? I appointed people because of their worth and not because of any organisation to which they belonged.
What about the NAC? It is in ruins and the Minister knows that.
Furthermore in all the hours of discussion I had with the NFA, discussions on sheep and related matters, I mentioned that I was shortly setting up this body and would be appointing members to it and nobody at that discussion even mentioned it subsequently or made any request in connection with it. For the Deputy's information and the information of those others who may also be misled, prominent members of the NFA were invited to go on the board and one actually indicated that he would be delighted to go on the board but, unless he was cleared through his organisation, he was sorry he could not participate.
Did the Minister ask the NFA, the biggest organisation representing the farmers, as Ministers for Agriculture have done in the past, to submit a name or names for appointment to this board? Previous Ministers for Agriculture have done that and have tried to co-operate with organisations representing our greatest and most important industry. Did the Minister do it? He is still at war with the NFA.
There is no more cooperative Minister than the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Minister will not even co-operate with his own Taoiseach. He is trying to oust him.
I would like to bring to the notice of the House that this House and the Seanad passed a measure empowering the Minister to set up An Chomhairle Olla on his nominations and not on the nominations of somebody outside, no matter how meritorious they might be. This has been done in accordance with the legislation passed by this House.
Is the Minister not misrepresenting the position? The legislation was passed by the Fianna Fáil Party. It was opposed every inch of the way by the people on this side of the House and one of the main reasons for that opposition was because the Minister was handpicking the personnel of An Chomhairle Olla.
Deputy Clinton, Deputy L'Estrange and the other Deputies over there know that they are putting their foot in it. They also know that there are members sitting at the inaugural meeting today who have, in the past and perhaps up to today, been supporters of their Party. I only hope that these people take due note of what the Fine Gael Deputies think of them and of their giving of their time free to do a job of national importance on behalf of the wool producers of this country when all they get from Fine Gael is slagging.
The Minister is deliberately trying to misrepresent us.
We cannot debate this question all evening.
We know that there may be some people on this board who are excellent people. In fact, I know some of them myself but they are handpicked by the Minister and are not representative.
Can the Deputy name one person on this board who is not an excellent person?
I could name a few of the Minister's staunch supporters.
Surely that does not prevent them from being on the board?
But that is why they are there.
The question relates to West Cavan.
I should like to ask the Minister a question which I think is the only relevant part of this issue. Where the Minister has conferred upon him by Oireachtas Éireann the power of selection of members of a board such as this, is it his policy to consult farmer organisations before exercising that power? Nobody suggests that the power should be taken from him and given to somebody else. All that is suggested is that, before exercising his statutory power of choice, he should consult what he calls the vocational organisations representing the farming industry. Is it his policy to do so and, if not, why not?
I have already said, but perhaps it missed the Deputy, that during my long discussions, totalling 25 hours, with one particular organisation that takes issue on this matter today, quite a considerable amount of time was given to sheep, wool and all related matters. During the discussions, I indicated schemes we were operating and schemes we were hoping to operate in the future and that this Wool Board was in the process of being set up. There was no further mention by any of those present in regard to the setting up of the board. Neither was there any mention as to its likely composition or any suggestion as to how the composition should be brought about.
It was not put to them in a very clear way.
Will the Minister say if it is one of the functions of the Wool Board to pull wool over the eyes of the electorate?
That is a Fine Gael stronghold.
Deputy Flanagan will be chairman of that Board.
Deputy Lalor will have some explaining to do during the next few weeks about Ballybrittas and about the corrupt appointment of certain people.
Would Deputy Flanagan please allow Questions to continue?
When are we going to get on to the other questions?
Question No. 27 postponed.