On Tuesday, Chris MacManus, the Sinn Féin MEP, voted against the Nature Restoration Law. Within minutes his party colleague, Dublin Sinn Féin European election candidate Lynn Boylan, described the fact the law had passed despite MacManus’s opposition as “great news”. Sinn Féin itself came out in support of MacManus’s position.

Of course, other political parties made hay with this. Lisa Chambers, still hoping to be added to Fianna Fáil’s ticket to run against MacManus in the midlands north and west constituency was among those to highlight the contradictory positions being held by party colleagues. It’s not a good look for Sinn Féin, that’s for sure. But perhaps the other political parties should be careful to make too much of it.

On Monday evening, Colm Markey told a Fine Gael agriculture meeting in Athy that he would be sure of no more than four votes in favour of the current nitrates derogation among the 13 serving MEPs.

The first striking thing about that is while farmers castigate the Government for not doing enough to secure a workable derogation, our national representatives in the European Parliament are not onside.

But it’s equally interesting to note that there are currently five Fine Gael MEPs. Colm Markey, a dairy farmer himself, doesn’t think that all his own party colleagues would support the current derogation’s retention.

He didn’t elaborate on whether Frances Fitzgerald, a Dublin MEP, or perhaps Maria Walsh, based in Mayo, would not be on board.

Would Billy Kelleher, a strong defender of the derogation, be any more confident that his fellow Fianna Fáil MEP, Dublin-based Barry Andrews would agree with him on this defining issue for dairy farmers?

Farmers in Kildare protested ahead of the meeting, raising the next derogation, which won’t be decided until 2026, and CAP payments, which won’t change until at least 2028, but had no interest in the vital vote taking place within 24 hours.

And the astonishing thing is that Kildare is in the same European constituency as Donegal and Mayo. But we don’t just have an urban-rural divide; we have a south and east-north and west divide too.


Flat payments are wanted in the west, massively opposed in the east. The derogation is the big land issue in Munster and south Leinster, whereas rewetting and land designation are the trigger issues in Connacht and across much of the midlands.

The political picture was never so complicated.