Recently, out of the blue, a colleague remarked in the middle of a heated discussion: “Let’s put the church back into the middle of the village.” In other words, let’s keep a sense of proportion. It’s originally, he explained, a French saying, but in times like these, it really rings true.

Not just the recent Katherine Zappone controversy over the nomination process for a €15,000 a year job – of course proper process wasn’t followed and reprimands should follow, but it shouldn’t deflect from the really important issues facing us.

Ireland’s place in Europe is under the microscope as a common corporate tax regime is hammered out, while domestically, our capacity to build houses, generate electricity as we restart coal burning Moneypoint and cope with the multitude of new proposals affecting farming and rural areas all come into focus at the same time. Not surprisingly, the rural and farming proposals being formulated are not reflected in the headlines of the mainstream media, but that does not make them any less important for those going to be affected by them.

This reform of the CAP is, in monetary terms, the most important we have had for 20 years. The new environmental and input limiting proposals in the Farm to Fork strategy have the real potential to shift agricultural and food production away from Europe to other parts of the world with less regulated farming systems.

Nitrates and Water framework directives

On Tuesday evening, I listened in to the Department webinar on the nitrates directive – it also covered phosphates. The focus was primarily on water quality and while I was reassured that our general water quality was good from a European perspective, it’s clear that some deterioration is taking place, especially in the south and south east.

At this stage, the broad reasons for problems in relation to both phosphorus run-off and nitrogen leeching are pretty well understood – though I was fascinated to hear from Teagasc’s Laurence Shalloo of the enormous varia-tions directly caused by weather in the leeching of nitrogen on grassland.