“I hate to burst your bubble, Mary Lou – but when you go into government you need other parties. Would you take this Mr. Ryan with you?”
The Sinn Féin leader continues her slow, hopeful journey towards government buildings, trying to reassure everyone that her party will not ruin the country or plunder various interest groups.
At Castletroy in Limerick yesterday it was the farmers turn to get tea and promise ‘to listen’.
The pleasantries were not long in coming. There was the obligatory “Family Boots Presentation” by a townsman.
Dublin native Mary Lou McDonald spoke of idyllic summers spent with her cousins on her mother’s dairy farm in Aherlow.
Surely Tipperary’s dairy references were reassuring material for an address to the annual general meeting of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), whose core area is mainly, though not exclusively, Munster and South Leinster?
Well, only up to a point. There was a lot of rhetoric in Ms McDonald’s speech to the delegates. Assurances that Sinn Féin will end its portrayal of farmers as climate change villains, reopening a bad EU farm fund deal sealed earlier this year and a promise to boost family farming.
Then pleasantries and speeches were made, the questions started and then the fun started in earnest. Would the Greens be part of a coalition that could lead them?
Ms McDonald was adamant that a tax on Sinn Féin’s capital proposals would not weigh on farmers
What about the Sinn Féin capital tax plans? And how would assets, such as land, be considered when evaluating grants for higher education?
Isn’t it time consumers started paying a more realistic price for groceries? One delegate said he was “a prototypical Irish farmer: bald, gray and limping”. How about helping young people in agriculture?
Soon it was back to possible coalition options involving the Greens. “How would you control the Greens?” asked a delegate to loud applause.
Ms McDonald was adamant that a tax on Sinn Féin’s capital proposals would not weigh on farmers. Their working farms would not be hit.
She was less clear on third-level grants and the farm that is weighed to assess a farming family’s means. “Yes, your wealth should not be at your expense,” she replied.
But the Sinn Féin leader said the whole thing was bogged down with stalled efforts to reform higher education funding. She wanted former ICTU Chairman Peter Cassell’s report on the subject to be revived and acted upon, as well as the phasing out of “registration fees”. Real Answer: Watch this room.
The question of cheap, unsustainably cheap food was certainly a tricky one given Sinn Féin’s urban political heartland. Ms McDonald felt there need not be winners and losers here – farmers could get a fair price without penalizing buyers. This prompted Irish ICMSA President Pat McCormack to intervene, noting that farmers are in many cases receiving the same price today as they did in 1995.
When it came to possible alliances, Ms McDonald pointed out that the meeting showed a great deal of love for Eamon Ryan or his colleagues.
However, she stressed that her priority was to put together a government in which neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael participated for the first time in 100 years.
In addition, there will be coalition talks. Sounds like the Greens may very well be in the frame next time as part of a Ms McDonald-led coalition.
Unfortunately, we never got to the part where she talked about plans to “control” her. But there was a strong message about the need for farmers to get involved in the discussion about a united Ireland.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/mary-lou-mcdonald-tries-to-woo-some-very-suspicious-farmers-as-concerns-over-green-alliance-are-raised-42197582.html Mary Lou McDonald tries to woo some very suspicious farmers as Green Alliance concerns are raised