A topic which dominated the IFA presidential election debate in Macroom on Monday night was the issues facing hill farmers, with particular focus on dwindling prices.

Neilie O’Leary, chair of Coohmola branch, called on all four candidates to secure a better future for young people who want to farm sheep.

“The price of the hill lamb at the moment wouldn’t pay you for much.

“Somebody has to step in there and secure a market. It’s a very serious situation,” he said.

In response to the hill lamb trade, deputy presidential candidate Pat Murphy agreed that it was on its knees and that something needs to change, while his opponent Alice Doyle said that hill sheep are important to certain areas, not only financially but also socially.

Aggravated response

However, this prompted an aggravated response from one farmer from west Cork.

He reiterated that hill sheep were important socially and economically but added that in the current environment, the candidates missed the “greatest trump card” for securing support for the hill sheep sector.

“That is that they are so important to the environment. They control the vegetation, to prevent the fires that cause the smoke that causes the upheaval to our non-farming neighbours and get the headlines that we so do not need,” he added.

Another Cork farmer said that for him to buy a tonne of meal at €400/t, he would have to sell 20 lambs to pay for it and argued that something has to be done around input costs.