We were surely all told as youngsters that politics and religion were two topics never to discuss in a pub. In the case of the latter, it was a totally understandable as it really is a matter for each individual. Avoiding discourse on the former is much more difficult. To me, essentially, party political differences essentially boil down to contrasting opinions on how to achieve the same thing. For nobody goes into politics – or any position of representation – striving to leave it worse.
Yet, the vitriolic bitterness which permeates so much of political discourse today could easily put a soul off interest or involvement therein were they not strong willed enough. With great regret it must be said that I’ve experienced it first hand. What’s now a good few years ago, it was an honour and pleasure to be able to assist someone known to me who was seeking election to a certain position. What was less palatable was hearing my friend and colleague lambasted for “Wheeling out the lad in the wheelchair” and “Looking for the sympathy vote”.
Now, apart from the fact that it was a scandalous degradation of the credentials and character of the person involved, even more hurtful was the inference that I was incapable of making decisions for myself and had in some way allowed myself be used as a stooge. Let’s just say it was the first and last time such an implication was aired!
It has always been a source of great pride and indeed strength to be able to help anyone known to me out when the need and opportunity arises. At the time of the last local elections, and indeed the preceding IFA elections to the most recent, it was great to be once again involved – though admittedly from the periphery having been cowed by the previous experience.
Nothing beats the feeling of making a difference yourself however. For that reason, the 11 years I was able to serve as PRO and Assistant PRO of St Peter’s GAA Club will forever remain the most treasured years of my life. Most likely, too, that it was on the back of those years that leanings towards becoming involved in politics festered.
Circumstance deemed that a non runner. However, as was opined here at the time, attending IFA meetings in the run up to Eddie Downey’s election as President planted a seed regarding involvement in farming administration. Therefore, it was a delight, privilege and great challenge to recently assume the role of Secretary of the local IFA branch.
And the challenging part of that description may be the most apt. Which has nothing to do with my situation either. The fact is that the Association is currently embroiled in and facing the completion of its most challenging task – regaining the trust and confidence of the grassroots members and supporters thereof.
To that end, the appointment of Joe Healy to the helm following the recent ballot is to be welcomed. From one viewpoint as he is vastly experienced in agricultural representation but perhaps even more so as he represents a different generation than that which has been to the forefront of governance and policy implementation for as long as can be recalled. Personally, apart from the fact that Mr Healy appears to be in the same age bracket as myself, there’s that he first came to my attention in his guise as a journalist doing the Ringside columns reporting on the cattle and sheep marts.
To his credit, the new President appears to have hit the ground running by means of highlighting some of the issues causing greatest afflicting farmers presently. However, these are numerous. Incomes across all production sectors appear to be in decline while recent developments pertinent to the MERCOSUR countries also present challenges – to put it mildly – for Irish farmers.
What that dastardly deal basically entails is the Irish market being flooded with cheaper, imported meat cuts. Which, of course, flies in the face of supporting beef farmers here at home. At a time when incomes in the sector appear perennially precarious. The primary cause of which being what can only be described as the constantly shifting goalposts relating to carcase specifications being sought by factories.
Now, some of my nearest and dearest acquaintances within the farming fraternity are highly experienced and efficient dairy producers and one is thus at pains not to alienate anyone. However, it’d be remiss not to confess that anxious anticipation abounds regarding the new incumbent’s take on the other sectors as well. Whilst at the same time wholly acknowledging that milk producers need a better return – especially those who invested heavily in herd expansion in the post-quota era.
Beef and sheep operators are under pressure, tillage farmers too thread wearily and while I would in no way consider myself qualified to comment on the pig and poultry and vegetable sectors they are surely also in search of betterment. When you see the nature of pricing for the latter in particular by shops – especially the foreign owned ones – you wonder what, if any, margin there can be.
Home is always closest to the heart though. While there was never any intention of finishing the weanling bulls bought in last back end, a certain degree of trepidation now surrounds their impending expulsion to the mart. Caused solely by price volatility. Of course, that’s something which transcends all facets of farming but – for whatever reason – gut feeling is it’s more acute pertaining to the bull beef trade.
On the heifer side, mention was afforded before to attempting a calf-to-beef system, even for a year, just to see how it’d work out. So, concerns about carcase specs are very much to the forefront of thoughts. That said, while no herd would be complete without a few continentals, with more Hereford and Angus, there should be less chance of penalties.
Anyway, the majority of the cattle are out, the silage ground has got its fertilizer and a lick of a roller, now all I hope for is the weather and my spirits to be good enough to enjoy the best part of the year!