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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Alamy Stock Photo President Higgins at the main stage at the National Ploughing Championships today.
United Nations

President Higgins accuses UN of ‘losing credibility’ amid warning over climate change

Higgins also criticised the EU for promoting a “US style” of agriculture addressing the National Ploughing Championships.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has accused the United Nations of “losing credibility” in a Ploughing Championship speech, as he called on both citizens and farmers to “play their part” in combating climate change challenges.

Higgins also criticised the EU for promoting a “US style” of agriculture while addressing farmers and families gathered at the main stage at the National Ploughing Championships.

While criticising countries who had not achieved global sustainability goals, he said that the United Nations (UN) was “falling”.

“It is unable to stop war, it is unable to end famine, it is unable to stop conflicts, it is unable to manage migration, and it will be saved by the influence of countries like Ireland who have no… other aim or ambition other than to have a safe, sustainable and peaceful world,” he said.

Higgins also warned that biodiversity was being destroyed and that the “darkest period of climate change consequences have begun” as farmers attended an event showcasing their craft and way of life.

Speaking to reporters in New York this afternoon, Tánaiste Micheál Martin acknowledged the President’s passion for international affairs and, while he had not read the remarks, understood his previous work to tackle world hunger.

“The President is passionate about global affairs, he has been passionate about global hunger. And he has led well, in respect of these issues, and in fact, recently in Africa gave a keynote address on hunger,” Martin said.

Martin added that he believes the President is “very highly respected” around the globe when it comes to world hunger and said he sees “no issue” with Higgins remarking on it.

Asked about international affairs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs did hail the work of the UN by placing importance on its role, and the role of its agencies, to assist the lives of “ordinary people” in developing nations.

Martin added that he agreed with comments made by US President Joe Biden earlier today that the UN and its Security Council needs reform, to expand the network of countries, in particular to provide membership to countries who have previously been “locked out”.

“The Security Council needs reform. And I would agree that the United Nations needs reform,” Martin added.

‘The last thing we need’

Higgins also praised the Ploughing Championship and said he was heartened by the number of young people who he saw attending.

He said the “last thing we need” is a conflict between rural and urban Ireland, and that customers “should support those who sustainably produce our food” amid inflation.

Thousands of people braved damp and windy weather on Tuesday morning to trudge across muddy farmlands for the major showcase of farming and rural life in Ireland’s midlands.

Despite the day brightening later on, some cars needed a push to get out of the makeshift car parks, located in nearby fields.

People in raincoats and plastic ponchos plodded past more than 1,000 stalls selling farming equipment and exhibiting techniques on the first day of the agricultural event.

Ireland’s National Ploughing Championships, hosted this year in Ratheniska, Co Laois, is hoping to attract around 300,000 attendees for its 92nd outing.

More than 200 acres of ploughing competitions will be hosted over three days, with more than 320 competitors.

Sheep shearing and a “country style best” fashion show will also feature, as will an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for welly throwing.

Mr Higgins said in his midday speech that the competition represented the “complexities of modern Ireland”, and warned that life in rural Ireland “is not just a zone of production to market conditions”, but “a space of life and living”.

He said that necessary change would not be easy and accused the European Union of “promoting a United States style of agriculture for a very long time”.

“I do think that farm families have to be supported and secured. I believe that this in the future will in fact have to be by direct payments. Farm family security cannot be delivered by the market,” he said.

The event comes as political pressure is put on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue by some farmers over an EU obligation that Ireland should reduce the volume of nitrogen it produces per hectare.

Farmers held protests at Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s respective think-in events last week, insisting the cut in the nitrate limit would force them to reduce herd sizes.

At a media event with McConalogue, John O’Brien, vice chair of the Barryroe Co-Op, questioned the minister and said limiting the nitrate level would make “no difference” to water quality in Ireland.

“You need to get fighting,” he told the minister.

Politicians have attempted to show their commitment to rural and farming life to punters, with political parties having set up stalls and ministers holding several events throughout Tuesday.

Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney said the event represented “something special” in Ireland as he arrived at the National Ploughing Association’s headquarters.

He and Higgins paid tribute to Anna May McHugh, who has been the managing director of the Ploughing Championships for 50 years.

Includes reporting from Muiris O’Cearbhaill and Christina Finn

Press Association
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