Farmers are the victims of climate and have received a disproportionate share of the blame for climate change, Independent Ireland candidate for Europe and former general secretary of ICSA Eddie Punch has said.

During a debate with MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher and Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly on Thursday, Punch maintained that there has been a "dogmatic green agenda" in the European Parliament over the last five years.

The three MEP candidates took part in a panel discussion ahead of the Irish Guild of Agricultural Journalists' AGM in the Heritage Hotel in Co Laois on Thursday.

People on the ground, Punch said, are tired of being told what to think, what to eat, where to go and what to drive.

"They are tired of having carbon taxes imposed on diesel cars when they have no alternative – when you’re cutting silage there is no alternative to diesel so that’s not a carbon tax, that’s just tax.

“People have had enough of that. When they see the way in which the farming community has got a hugely disproportionate share of the blame for climate change... in fact farmers are actually the victims of climate," he said.

Cutting national herd

He argued that "irrational ideas" around cutting the national herd have not been met with the discussion around how it's causing "carbon leakage" and food to be sourced from outside of the European Union.

"The hypocrisy of that is destroying morale. It's not that we'll have dogmatic views for five years, we've had them for the last five years and people are sick of it," he said.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said that the parliament doesn't elect a Government, it doesn't have an adversarial approach and that it's very much built on compromise.

"I'd still be hopeful that it won't be dragged in its entirety across to the extreme right and that we would have a common sense, best interest approach to policies," he said.

However, in response, Punch said: "It's easy to have compromise if centre and centre right parties roll over and deliver exactly what the left and greens want. We’ve had that and we saw it with Commissioner [Frans] Timmermans dictating to the EPP on how they should vote on nature restoration," Punch said.

Senator O'Reilly said that because the greens got elected in such "large numbers" last time, inclusive of two MEPs from Ireland, it resulted in policies such as the European Green Deal.

"There's a fear there that there's a rise of the far right that's going to pull back environmental legislation and human rights. Now is the time, if people care about these issues, now is the time to stand up, we can't be complacent," she said.