Nitrates dominated the debate in Fermoy on Tuesday night at the first of four European election hustings being hosted by the IFA.

Located in the heart of dairy country, it was little surprise that the changes to the derogation were a recurring theme across the night.

All but one of the candidates present said they would support the retention of the derogation.

Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan fell short of saying she would vote against it, but said it would depend on how water quality was trending.

Eddie Punch, who revealed he is standing for Independent Ireland, said in his opinion the Irish Government “had given up on the derogation” before he and other farm organisation leadership met the European Commissioner for the Envrionment Virginijus Sinkevicius in Dublin late last year.

Water quality issues

Independent Michael McNamara pointed out that where he lives in Clare has few cows, a lot of forestry and water quality issues, with a similar situation pertaining in Leitrim.

It was near the end of the night before Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil’s sitting MEP, pointed out that the European Parliament has little or no say in whether Ireland retains a derogation, as it’s primarily a matter for the Commission to propose and the 27 member states to support.

Nine of the candidates, including political newcomers John Mullins of Fine Gael and Cynthia Ní Mhurchú of Fianna Fáil (on the 30th anniversary of her introducing Riverdance at the 1994 Eurovision) said they would support a continuation of live exports.

Independent Christopher Doyle and Green Left candidate Lorna Bogue said they would oppose, with Grace O’Sullivan again uncertain, saying it would depend on the level of animal welfare involved.

Sinn Féin’s Paul Gavan and Aontú’s Patrick Murphy took the Government parties to task over Mercosur.

The hustings continue in Claremorris at the McWilliam Park Hotel tonight (Thursday 2 May) for the Midlands North and West constituency.