Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has said that her party needs to “work very, very hard” to secure the support of farmers ahead of the next general election.
Speaking on the first day of the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois, Deputy McDonald said she is “very conscious that we have a lot of work to do”.
The Sinn Féin leader was responding to a recent poll, commissioned by the Irish Farmers Journal, which showed that 12% of farmers would give their first preference vote to her party, much lower than the party’s rating among the general public.
“Polls come and polls go, but what remains is the reality that for us to convince people to give us a chance at the next election, we’re going to have to work very, very hard. That means engagement with farmers, with rural communities,” she said.
Deputy McDonald described how her party is “just going to go out and talk to people” before the next general election, including farmers.
“There’s still a lot of ground to be covered between this and election time. And I know that the farming community is no different than others - they care about housing, they care about education, safe communities. Those agenda items are where we really want to intensify the conversation,” she added.
On what Sinn Féin would do differently for agriculture in Government, Deputy McDonald said her party would “create a real and genuine partnership with farming”.
“It’s always struck me that when we talk about care for the environment, a narrative has grown that nearly puts progress on that in one corner and then farming and agriculture in another.
“That’s completely the wrong approach. When I hear farmers talking, they are always talking about the different initiatives, the different kind of local things that can be done to make a contribution to addressing the climate crisis,” she said.
The Sinn Féin leader said farmers “need change in terms of CAP”.
“Sustainability and climate are where it’s at. We need a reform of CAP that actually reflects that, but maintains payments that allow farmers to farm.
“Crucially, we want a focus on the family farm. We have a proposal for a commission on the family farm. That’s the best unit and the best model for agriculture and we want to sustain it and make sure that it’s sustainable for future generations,” Deputy McDonald concluded.