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Healy Rae tells ministers to get out of their 'ivory towers' and talk to Irish farming families about EU trade deal

The biggest ever trade agreement between the EU and South American countries was announced last week.

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae was one of a few TDs to round on the government over the Mercosur trade deal.
Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae was one of a few TDs to round on the government over the Mercosur trade deal.

‘YOU ARE TRYING to defend the indefensible.” Those were the words of Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae during a debate on the Mercosur trade deal today. 

During Leaders’ Questions, members of the opposition rounded on Communications Minister Richard Bruton, who was standing in for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today. 

Last week, the European Union announced that it had agreed its biggest ever trade agreement with the bloc of South American countries known as Mercosur.

The agreement was reached after two decades of negotiations, and is expected to remove more than 90% of agricultural and industrial tariffs on both sides.

It could save European companies billions of Euro in trade duties every year, but not everyone is happy about it.

A Government minister, opposition TDs, farming lobbyists and environmental groups have all criticised the deal, and the Government is facing pressure to vote against it when the agreement eventually comes before the EU Trade Council.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said over the weekend that he is “very concerned” about the potential impact on Irish beef farmers of the new trade deal.

‘Ivory towers’

“It is actually crazy what is being proposed,” Healy Rae told the Dáil today

He told ministers across the chamber to get out of their “ivory towers” and to talk to Irish farming families. 

Healy Rae told Bruton that he was “trying to sell the unsellable” after the minister said there were opportunities as well as threats in the proposed deal.

The Kerry TD said farmers will get “poorer and poorer” under the deal until they are no longer in existence.

He hit out against the minister asking him how Bruton could seriously stand up in front of the Dail as a well-respected politician and attempt to take the “sting out of” the announcement. 

“How in the name of God can you and your government justify it,” he added. 

“I’m pleading with you to wake up,” said Healy Rae, who called on the Irish government to come to the defence of the Irish farmers. 

Bruton said many of the same people criticising the trade deal also spoke out against the EU trade deal with Canada (CETA), adding that it has proved beneficial. 

‘Not a perfect deal’

“I’m not saying this is a perfect deal by any means,” said the minister, adding that the deal needs to be assessed before any judgement is made on it. 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as well as Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald also criticised the trade deal.

Martin said the deal flew in the face of the climate change initiatives the EU is pushing, stating that European leaders saying they are committed to the Paris Agreement “means nothing” in light of this deal.

The Sinn Féin leader said the minister had made a very “lame effort” to defend the Mercosur trade deal agreement. 

A number of TDs were unhappy with the time set aside to debate the new trade deal, with some suggestions that the Dáil could sit this Friday or a day into the summer break to debate the impact on Irish farmers. 

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