Following the developments regarding the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture and Marine, Barry Cowen, of late, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice wished to release the following statement.
He said: “I have remained silent on this matter until Minister Cowen was given the opportunity to address the matter in the Dail.
“Barry Cowen has come out and apologised for his actions four years ago. He made a mistake, he was caught, and he took his punishment.
“It is my view that as Minister for Agriculture there are a variety of serious pressing issues which require attention – including the structure of the payments under a new CAP period, new CAP proposals coming from Europe and commodity prices for farmers.
“The minister needs to be given the opportunity to address the real challenges facing ordinary family farms across the country.
“For a number of years I have highlighted the imbalance in the direct payments system and I hope that Minister Cowen can address this moving forward. He also needs to put an environmental scheme in place, similar to the to the old REPS scheme – as I outlined in documents submitted during discussions around the programme for Government.
“In relation to the issue that arose in the past week or so, we must first all agree that no one condones drink driving. There are laws there that if you are caught, then you are reprimanded.
“But for anyone that has taken a drink in their life, can they put their hand on their heart and honestly say that they were never even marginally over the limit? People make mistakes.
“The attitude towards drink driving has changed drastically in Ireland in recent decades, and rightfully so.”
In terms of driving licensing issues, the Roscommon-Galway TD wished to reiterate potential measures he first brought up two years ago during a meeting of the Oireachtas transport committee when the Road Safety Authority was present.
“There are a number of older farmers or older people in rural areas who are hugely intimidate by the way the licencing process is handled here. Some of these people may not have had the opportunity to receive a proper education and feel they are being pushed away by the system.
“Some of these elderly people wish to rectify the situation, but they are too intimidated by the process of answering the questions as part of the theory test.
“I previously asked the RSA to bring in a system to accommodate these people in the likes of Mondello Park – or somewhere similar in four different parts of the country. These people would then have the opportunity to drive a vehicle and if they were competent enough, they would be assisted in attaining a licence.
“I fully believe that this could be implemented, or are we going to continue to alienate certain people from the system.”
Concluding, he said: “Following on from this, I hope that Minister Cowen can focus all his attention on the challenges facing the agriculture sector.
“There are a plethora of issues facing the country at present, including homelessness, the health sector and covid 19. This newly formed Government must now turn its attention to making a real difference.
“I will judge Minister Cowen on what he delivers for the agricultural sector and family farms.”
Michael Fitzmaurice TD 086-1914565