Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has quashed suggestions that the expansion of the Irish dairy herd over the past decade was a "policy error" by Government.

“The ambition that we have had to expand dairy production, I don’t believe was a mistake. Irish farming has shown its ability to meet the dairy needs of the world in a very carbon-efficient way.

“But what we now need to do is acknowledge that we all need to do better and play a bigger role.”

He was speaking during an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Monday in relation to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this week.

Farmer role

Minister Donohoe responded to comments made over the weekend by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald which criticised the Government’s position of “presenting a big stick to Irish farmers [on climate]” while simultaneously supporting the Mercosur trade agreement in Brussels.

“We’re not taking a big stick to anyone and this is the kind of language that undermines our ability to make the case for all that is positive with transitioning to a low-carbon future.

“It is the case that we will be asking our farmers to play a role and it will be an important role in how we reduce our emissions and we will be asking everybody to do that.

“We’re particularly conscious of the needs and challenges that could pose for Irish farming and we’re committed to supporting our family farms in this very important transition.”

The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has addressed dairy herd expansion in the last decade. \ Philip Doyle

Minister Donohoe declined to agree with a tweet posted by his former adviser Ed Brophy over the weekend, which described the policy decisions made to facilitate and encourage the expansion of the dairy herd over the last decade as regrettable.


He clarified that, in his view, the ambition to expand the herd was “not a mistake”.

“I’ve already seen the progress that Irish agriculture has made. For example, in relation to the diet and how we support our herd, in relation to what we can do with the genetic merit of our herd in the future and also how we can make better use of fertilisers.

“These are very positive things that we, our farmers and the Government can do together that will reduce the emissions contribution of our country for years to come and that’s the kind of dialogue we’ll be moving into once we agree our carbon budget.”

Concluding, Minister Donohoe refused to express a view on the carbon budgets to be applied to agriculture ahead of an upcoming Government decision.

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