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Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue named to replace Dara Calleary as Agriculture Minister

Dara Calleary resigned last month amid the Golfgate controversy.

Charlie McConalogue (file photo).
Charlie McConalogue (file photo).
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

CHARLIE MCCONALOGUE IS set to replace Dara Calleary as the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who took on the portfolio in an acting capacity when it was vacant, made the announcement in the Dáil this afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins appointed McConalogue as Minister for Agriculture soon after, and presented him with his Seal of Office.

McConalogue is the fourth person, including Martin, to take on the role since the coalition government was formed in late June.

The Donegal TD, who is from a farming background, was widely tipped to succeed Calleary.

Speaking at the Convention Centre this afternoon, Martin said: “Immediately and throughout the government’s term (McConalogue) will face a number of urgent challenges, which are central to securing the long-term future of rural Island, and the industries which are at its heart.

“We must prepare for whatever the post-Brexit trade situation brings. We must negotiate a final CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) which serves the interests of our communities. And we must redouble efforts to achieve a sustainable and prosperous rural economy.”

Martin noted that the appointment “was made necessary by the resignation of Deputy Dara Calleary following his attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner, which he accepts and which did represent a clear breach of the guidelines on Covid-19, which all of us must adhere to”.

Wexford TD James Browne is to succeed McConalogue as Minister of State for Law Reform at the Department of Justice.

Calleary resigned following his attendance at the controversial Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Galway last month.

Barry Cowen was first appointed to the role of Agriculture Minister on 28 June but was sacked by Martin after just 18 days amid a drink-driving controversy.

Cowen, a TD for Laois–Offaly, faced criticism after it emerged in July that he had been caught drink-driving in September 2016.

Calleary replaced Cowen on 15 July, but his tenure was also short-lived. The Mayo TD resigned on 21 August amid huge public anger over the event in Galway.

‘No honeymoon period’

Speaking about McConalogue’s appointment, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy said the resignations of Cowen and Calleary meant there has been a lack of focus on the challenges facing Irish farmers for several months.

“Since the new government has come into place, there hasn’t been a single opportunity for the Agriculture Minister to be questioned in the Dáil,” he said.

“Irish agriculture is facing unprecedented challenges over the coming months from the prospect of a Brexit fallout, the ongoing coronavirus implications, impending EU trade deals such as with the Mercosur block, and upcoming CAP negotiations.”

His comments were echoed by farmers’ groups, who said it would be “difficult to overstate the number and importance of the challenges” facing McConalogue.

The Irish Farmers’ Association congratulated the new minister on his appointment, but added that they expected him to “get to grips with his portfolio quickly” given the importance of CAP, Brexit and the Government’s Climate Bill.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association also welcomed the appointment. However, the group said McConalogue needed to “make up for lost time”.

“Agriculture has suffered over recent months without ministerial leadership,” the group’s president Edmond Phelan said.

“Minister McConalogue now needs to get to grips with the pressing issues… Brexit and the CAP reform, both of which will be critical in determining the future for Irish farming.”

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President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association Pat McCormack said there could not be ”any kind of honeymoon period” for the incoming minister.

“We’ve lost two months as it is and I would suggest that the very first priority has to be introducing a degree of stability and the restoration of some momentum to several of the policies that appear to have drifted in the absence of a Minister,” he said.

With reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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Órla Ryan

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