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Four farming groups on new climate-change sub-committee

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SENT LETTER TO COUNCILLORS Jarlath Walsh, Chairperson, Mayo IFA.

New committee expected to meet for first time in March

Anton McNulty

FARMERS will have four representatives on the new sub-committee of the Environment, Climate Action, Agriculture and Emergency Services Strategic Policy Committee (SPC). The sub-committee was established on Friday, following Mayo County Council’s recent climate and biodiversity emergency declaration, which has proven controversial.
The declaration at the January meeting of Mayo County Council angered many members of the farming community, with many reportedly contacting councillors in relation to it.
The Irish Farmers Association in Mayo wrote to councillors on the Environment SPC, outlining its annoyance that the council declared a climate and biodiversity emergency.
The letter, signed by Mayo IFA Chairman Jarlath Walsh and Regional Officer Roy O’Brien, was received by some councillors ahead of last Friday’s Environment, Climate Action, Agriculture and Emergency Services SPC meeting.  
The new sub-committee, established at the meeting, will come up with recommendations on what can be done regarding climate issues. It was agreed that each of the county’s four farming groups should have a representative on it.
At last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, some councillors attempted to revoke the declaration, with Cllr Neil Cruise (FG) describing it as ‘tantamount to terrorism’ and not a good decision for a rural county. However, they were informed that under standing orders, a motion could not be revoked for six months.
In the draft proposal for the make up of the sub-committee, Laura Dixon, from the Council's Climate Action Office proposed that that the sub-committee be made up of four members of the current SPC, one elected representative from each of the four municipal districts, and representatives from the NPWS, SEAI, Comhairle na nÓg and an academic partner.
However, members of the SPC suggested that farmers would also have to be represented. At last Friday’s SPC meeting, Cllr Donna Sheridan suggested that representatives from the IFA, the ICMSA and the INHFA all be on the sub-committee, and this was agreed.
A fourth farmings group, Talamh Beo, which represents farmers interested in ‘using sustainable methods of production’, was added on the suggestion of Sinéad Moran, who represents the Environment sector of the Mayo Public Participation Network on the SPC.
There were also calls for representatives from the forestry industry be included, along with representatives of the Tidy Towns organisations.
Martin Keating, the Head of Environment, Climate Change and Agriculture, said that the views of young people should be represented. This was supported by Cllr Peter Flynn, but he warned against too big a committee. “My great fear with any committee that it will end up with too many people and it will become unwieldy,” he said.
It was eventually agreed that a member from each of the four municipal districts would be included, along with current SPC members Sinéad Moran and Cliona Boland, who will represent community and business sectors, and the Cathaoirleach of the SPC, Cllr Blackie Gavin.
John Davitt, who represents the agriculture sector on the SPC, agreed to be the IFA rep on the sub-committee. He will be joined by reps of the three other farming groups as well a representative of the forestry sector. The sub-committee will also be joined by a member of Comhairle na n-Óg and GMIT.
The new sub-committee is expected to be in a position to meet for the first time in mid March.
“It will take a week or two to get the representatives from the groups we have to select from. We will get working on it and reconvene at the earliest opportunity,” Mr Keating said.