Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said there is widespread frustration and disappointment among farmers at the appointment of former Department of Agriculture secretary general Michael Dowling, as Chairman of the Beef Taskforce. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed confirmed the appointment in response to a parliamentary question on the matter:
“The fact that the Minister has chosen to appoint Mr Dowling – a former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture and Head of Agri Strategy at Allied Irish Bank, as the ‘Independent’ Chairman is a major blow in terms of establishing initial confidence in the direction that the Taskforce will take.
We have to remember that many farmers will remember Mr Dowling’ in terms of his failure as a senior department official to progress or deliver key commitments outlined in the Programme for a Partnership Government in 2016.
Those Commitments included introducing a framework for Producer Organisations (POs) and the development of POs in the beef sector, to ensure farmers are not just price takers but price makers.
Yet the fact remains that while Mr Dowling was a senior official, there was literally zero progress on those commitments from the departments side.
Indeed, it was a lack of leadership from the department that created so much of the mess farmers found themselves in, and continue to find themselves in.
Despite this, the Minister now wants farmers to accept that the appointment of the former secretary general is a good thing.
What farmers are telling me is that this is nothing more than an attempt to return to business as normal, when what they actually need is someone capable of delivering bold, radical change with a willingness to robustly take on the might of the processors and the retailers,” concluded Deputy McGrath.