Last Sunday saw the launch event of the Farmers’ Alliance, a new political initiative to bring rural voices back into Irish politics.
It follows a wave of rural discontent that is sweeping across Europe in the wake of EU-imposed ‘Green Transition’ policies, which have driven the landslide electoral victory for the farmers’ party in the Netherlands, as well as protests in Belgium and even Germany.
With over 300 people in attendance at the Athlone Spring hotel, there was a lively atmosphere. The host thanked for the participants for coming during a “very busy time of the year” for farmers, when many are occupied with the springtime work of planting and calving. The project wasn’t exclusive to farmers either. Representatives of the fishing and forestry industries were also present, as the initiative sought to include other primary producers. “The Farmers’ Alliance embraces all aspects of rural living, be it forestry, mining, fishing, or the rural way of life,” the group emphasised.
The speakers at the event had a long line of grievances on behalf of their professions and communities. Among them were issues such as the nightmarish self-contradicting over-regulation which is choking their work, the unstable and unsustainably low prices they receive for their produce, and the rural depopulation that is resulting in fewer and fewer young farmers.
“If anyone doesn’t think rural Ireland is being exterminated, you’re asleep!” said Cormac Power, a sheep farmer from Galway. This was met with applause. While the rural community is no stranger to its hardships, there was an unmistakable feeling in the crowd that too many of these issues had piled up, and that this time things were reaching a serious crisis point. Again and again, speakers warned of Ireland’s food production collapsing.
According to many of the speakers, a chief problem was the “villification of farmers.” Helen O’Sullivan, a cattle farmer who had come up from West Cork to speak, denounced the misinformation spread by elitist politicians and environmentalists, which always pointed to pollution and climate change as being the “farmers’ fault.” Waving printouts of pro-veganism posters, she highlighted their one-sided anti-farmer rhetoric:
“I hear they are blaming animal agriculture for climate change, which is totally wrong. We all know the number one emittor here in Ireland is Dublin airport. Do you see that in billboards? Have you seen it anywhere? No you haven’t.”
In spite of much of the anger being against the consequences of eco-alarmist Green Transition policies, the participants were far from being anti-environmentalist. In fact many of the farmers were deeply concerned with ecology, and had a deep knowledge of sustainable practices. Many were highly supportive of Irish farming’s organic status, and defended it on those grounds. One young Monaghan farmer, Stewart Waller, highlighted how Bord Bia forced Irish farmers to sell at world trade prices. As result, he said that Irish farmers are “competing against factory farms, such as the one in Texas, that was burnt down [killing] 18,000 cows… I feel this is a last chance for us all to get together and make Ireland a place where everybody has a sustainable future.”
Caroline Van Der Plas, the leader of the Netherlands’ recently victorious Citizen-Farmer Movement, echoed many of these points as she spoke to the event via video call. She constantly heard the Dutch political establishment and media “framing farmers for climate change, for being polluters, and animal abusers.” Yet during her years of work as an agricultural journalist she “saw farmers always doing what was right for their environment, for their people and communities, and for their animals.” She said that in response to this bias, “farmers need to speak with one voice in spite of their differences.”
One speaker, Brendan Guinan, spoke of his successes in running a biological forest farm. He said that he had found great success in employing nature-friendly methods, in increasing the productivity of the farm, its sustainability, and the quality of his food. He also recommended that farmers sell directly to consumers, and said that going forwards Irish farmers would need to really rethink how they conduct business. “The system that’s there currently, as everyone agrees, is broken, so everyone agrees that we have to design a new system. The logistics needed for that to be efficient, is what’s going to make or break it.”
For the time being it appears that the Farmers’ Alliance has no intention of becoming an outright political party.
Speaking to many of the attendees and the organisers, they expressed their apprehension at the number of new parties being started in the country, and many said that they would only be willing to add to this number as a last resort. Instead, the organisers emphasised that the point was to unite and organise Irish farmers, giving them a voice, and being open to collaborate with any poiliticians or parties who would fight their corner.
While the Farmers’ Alliance is not likely to show up at the next ballot box, there is no doubt that they will become a considerable new anti-establishment force in an Irish politics, against a government which these days seems so totally captured by the destructive ignorance of south Dublin eco-alarmism.