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Farmers angry as DAA gets off the hook

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Sir, – DAA’s arguments for lifting the cap of 32 million passengers on Dublin Airport, as set out by Andrea Carroll, group head of sustainability at DAA, are actually quite compelling and within their own terms of reference make perfect sense (Opinion & Analysis, February 6th). The problem is that according to the Government it is not enough to make sense within sectoral terms of reference, and hasn’t been for at least five years. According to it, the drive to reduce national emissions overrides all petty sectoral considerations and calculations and must be considered as something akin to a “national emergency”. Certainly, that’s the version that we farmers have been treated to and actually as recently as last November when both Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan very kindly attended the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) AGM. On that occasion, pleas from the floor for special account to be taken of the multiplier-effect of farming incomes, negative and positive, on wider rural communities, were listened to politely before being firmly dismissed.

But of course, that was then, and that was farmers. It seems a rather different attitude is to be taken now – judging by the Taoiseach’s expressions of support for the lifting of the passenger cap from 32 million to 40 million (a mere 25 per cent).

Ms Carroll’s accounting of the various percentages of emissions attributable is all very laudable and doubtless correct. But it misses the point: if the Government is perfectly happy to tell Irish farmers and the rural communities that those farmers backbone, that they are going to have their herds (and incomes) reduced by double-digit percentages to lower Ireland’s emissions and that this is a non-negotiable and in keeping with our climate targets as set out in law, then they cannot – in logic or simple equity – simply rubber-stamp DAA’s application for an increase in passenger numbers that will necessarily increase transport emissions.

Unless, of course, a €19 billion indigenous farming and agri-food sector producing milk or beef to world-beating standards and largely for export is deemed not as important as flying to Faro four or five times a year to play golf? And if I am being facetious there – and I am – then it is surely up to the DAA and the State to differentiate between that air travel that is an economic necessity and those, like our friends flying to Faro, whose travel should surely come under a different heading?

But there’s no word or intention or discussion about treating obviously discretionary air travel for the purposes of leisure any differently to air travel for emergency or economic purposes. Farmers are being told by the Irish State that it is absolutely entitled to de facto restrict the numbers of cows he or she may own. The State has that right and will exercise it in the national good. But a party of 20 on their way to a stag weekend in (say) Vilnius? Off you go, lads. Enjoy yourselves. Nobody’s business but your own.

Underneath all the citing of commissioned reports and “potential impacts”, this is going to boil down very quickly to a very simple question. Is this State genuine in its hourly proclaimed commitment to lowering national emissions or has it – as many of us suspect – just dumped that load on what on what it considers farm families, while everyone else just carries on more or less regardless? Were we not all meant to be in this together? And how come all the politicians – and their pals in the NGOs and quangos – who talk so tough to the farmers and race each other to court to mount taxpayer-funded challenges to agri-infrastructure have nothing to say about the jaw-dropping hypocrisy that has Irish farming told it must cut emissions by 25 per cent, while the “national” airport applies to increase throughput by 25 per cent?

The sincerity of Andrea Carroll and her DAA colleagues is not being questioned. But if DAA and Aer Lingus and the others want the cap lifted, then they should just come right out and say that the State policy on lowering emissions was just meant for the farmers and other rural types, and that, obviously, it was not meant to apply to people who’ll only ever see a farm as they fly over it on the way somewhere sunny. But they had better understand that the ICMSA isn’t buying this. We see no difference between our cows and the “sacred cow” that is Dublin Airport.

If the State supports this absolutely brass-necked contradiction of its own stated policy, then it forfeits the right forever to lecture anyone on the need for all to focus and implement measures aimed at lowering emissions. – Yours, etc,

DENIS DRENNAN,

President,

ICMSA,

Limerick.

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