So it has come to this. Last week the leaders of the IFA and the ICMSA, together with a large group of supporters, sat side-by-side in the visitors’ gallery of the Dáil as the Minister for Agriculture conceded that there would be an independent examination of the evidence surrounding the events on Dan Brennan’s Castlecomer farm 20 years ago.

In the Brennan case, successive farm leaders have voiced their profound unease at how the case has been handled. Successive public servants across a range of organisations have come and gone – some in unusual circumstances.

The current Minister Charlie McConalogue was not even in politics when the stock were living unproductive lives and even dying on the Brennan farm and as the hedgerows were pale and stunted.

First visit

The evidence was visible and acknowledged, but the investigations into the possible causes were by any standard extraordinary. I first went to the Brennan farm in 2006 and the factory was in production and the damage to stock and vegetation was very visible.

I returned just a few years ago in 2021 – the factory had closed, the stock were thriving and the vegetation was back to normal.

Equally extraordinary was the tenacity of the farming family whose lives were so affected by events over which they had no control and who survived financially because the mother, a nurse, continued to work, commuting between the farm in Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny and the hospital in Naas, Co Kildare.

Fresh eyes

The family were clearly believed not just by farm leaders but by the Chairman of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee Jackie Cahill, some parliamentary colleagues but especially by the Ceann Comhairle (chairman) of the Dáil Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who has consistently made time available to have the topic raised in the Dáil.

In one memorable intervention, Ó Fearghaíl said that it wasn’t more evidence that was needed but fresh eyes to examine the evidence that had been assembled.

These fresh eyes are now to be recruited and we await the outcome. At this stage, there is little to be added except to say that once the factory at the centre of the investigation closed down and ceased production, the improvement in Dan Brennan’s livestock and farm has been visible and consistent.