Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe has admitted he was wrong to single out young farmers in his letter to Irish banks on lending to farmers.

Cuffe was speaking on RTÉ's News at One on Thursday following recent criticism from farmers, their representatives and several politicians in relation to his letter.

The Green MEP wrote to the CEOs of major Irish banks in recent weeks lobbying against their lending to farmers.

Cuffe said he "shouldn’t have singled out agriculture" in his letters, but added that he was concerned about the rapid expansion of Ireland’s dairy sector.

Entire economy

The Dublin MEP said: “Of course it was wrong to single out young farmers, because the entire economy needs to reduce its emissions.

"We need to tackle emissions in aviation and we need to bring the entire Irish economy towards a low carbon future that doesn't just require action in agriculture.

"It means action in construction, in energy and in transportation."

Dairy expansion

However, Cuffe did clarify that the basis of his letters was his concern around the expansion of the Irish dairy sector.

He said dairy output has almost doubled in recent years, which is "good news for farmers", but is "putting huge pressure" on the environment.

"The Environmental Protection Agency shows that almost half of Irish rivers and lakes are not in good condition and that agricultural run-off is the main contributory factor. It’s not just about greenhouse gas pollution."


Cuffe said a lot of his work in Europe is "prompted by tackling our greenhouse gas emissions" and that this was the basis behind his letter.

He expressed concern around bank lending for several sectors of the economy, which does not align with the direction he sees as needed to reach climate targets.

“Last week, the European Central Bank issued a report where it says it looked at 119 banks in Europe and it says none of them are aligning their lending with our climate goals," he said.