Is there a case for banning Government ministers from social media at the weekends?

As an avowed and committed Neanderthal when it comes to Twatter, Farcebook and Thick Talk, The Dealer for one would certainly agree with such a structure.

It would, of course, keep some of our publicity-addicted politicians out of the limelight – and the social media cesspit – for 48 hours each week.

But that might not be any harm for either our Oireachtas members or the general public.

At the very least, such a move would spare us from spurious spats such as that which the Minister of State Pippa Hackett generated last Saturday.

For those who missed the social media event, Minister Hackett took issue with a farmer burning bushes which had been cut from nearby hedges and heaped.

In a Twitter post that included video footage of the offending on-farm activities, the minister questioned the wisdom of the farmer’s actions at a time when there was a high fire risk warning.

She also maintained that clearing hedges during the nesting season “is not right”.


Following criticism of her initial post, she later doubled down on her original assertions, maintaining that she would “not turn a blind eye” to what she described as “bad practice” by farmers.

The Dealer does not dispute that Minister Hackett was well within her rights to question the actions of the farmer involved.

However, there was surely a better way to address any concerns she harboured.

In addition, there was no acceptance by the minister that the farmer was likely to have been issued with a permit by her colleague Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan’s department for the actions he or she was undertaking.

The minister’s insinuation that the farmer’s actions in burning bushes in a green field somehow posed a general fire risk is patently ridiculous and doesn’t even merit comment.

In contrast, however, her complaint that farmers shouldn’t burn heaped hedge-cuttings during the nesting season is reasonable to a point. But it begs the question, why are permits being issued by the Department for this work during nesting season?

At the very least, it was inappropriate for a Government minister to post such a video.

IFA’s Brian Rushe was correct when he commented that Minister Hackett could have gone down to the farm to raise her concerns directly with the farmer in the same time that it took to take and post the video.

We all have a tendency to strap on the six-shooter and play the Sheriff of Tombstone every now and then, but people expect their Government ministers to be more considered and circumspect in their actions.

In The Dealer’s opinion, a bit more thought and a lot less Twitter wouldn’t go astray.