Eddie Punch pledged to stand up for the interests of farmers, small business owners and rural Ireland if elected to the European Parliament for Ireland South in June.

Speaking at the launch of his election campaign in Cratloe, Co Clare, on Friday, the former general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association pledged that he would never support measures that threatened the livelihoods of farmers.

He accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of abandoning farmers by supporting the recent passing of the nature restoration law and claimed that successive governments were more interested in getting a “pat on the back” from Brussels than robustly defending Ireland’s national interests.

Punch insisted that he was a strong believer “in the European Union” and that “membership of the European Union has been of benefit” to Ireland.

However, he maintained that “more and more”, the European Commission had “become detached from the reality of life for ordinary people”.

'Flawed' policies

This had resulted in flawed climate action and trade policies, plus increased bureaucracy and regulation for farmers, he claimed.

Punch said there was a need for greater balance in the associated areas of “climate objectives, food security and energy security”.

While accepting that action is needed to combat the climate crisis, Punch claimed that “green taxes” such as increased duties on petrol and diesel were simply taxes for those people who did not have alternative transport options to the car.

The Clare candidate also asked how a cut in the Irish national cattle herd could be justified from a climate change perspective when the EU is considering a trade deal with Mercosur, which would result in increased beef imports into Europe from countries such as Brazil.

“That makes no sense. If you want a sensible debate [on climate], you have to be balanced and you have to get rid of the hypocrisy. That’s not happening at the moment,” Punch said.

Punch maintained that sitting MEPs had to take some of the responsibility for the increased level of regulation being imposed on farmers and other small businesses.

'Dublin-centric' nature

He claimed MEPs were “not paying attention” to the detail of legislation “at the right time”.

The independent candidate also took aim at successive Irish governments for the Dublin-centric nature of economic development.

This was a direct consequence of national policy being unduly influenced by a “Dublin cabal”, Punch claimed.

The area of disability policy was also referenced by Punch.

“I believe in an Ireland and a Europe where disability is just a challenge that can be overcome. And where everybody who has a disability has the opportunity to live the best life possible all of their lives,” he said.