“I think we should try to retain the current derogation, but it’s going to be dependent on water quality,” Claire Kerrane says. “The first thing we need is clarity for farmers.

“When the Environment Commissioner was here [last November], he said ‘stable water quality’, and that sounded better than ‘improving water quality’ [which had earlier been the term used by officials].

“But now we’re hearing it has to be in line with the Water Framework Directive, which is a whole other ballgame, and it’s the whole country, which we’re not going to achieve.

“The problem is, farmers are the ones who will be impacted if we lose the derogation, but they’re not the only ones impacting on water quality.

“We need to be clear with farmers because, as of now, we still don’t have a roadmap as to what stable water quality is and how we get it.

“On the Oireachtas Agriculture committee, we’re setting a lot of time aside to look specifically at the derogation, but the nitrates directive is going out to public consultation again, and we’re going to have a new Commission in a few months’ time – that could change things again considerably,” she says.