Irwin demands climate ‘common sense’

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and DAERA committee member William Irwin MLA has urged the farming public to contact their local Northern Ireland Assembly members and ensure their voice is heard against the Green Party Private Members Bill on Climate Change.

Mr Irwin made the call after the second reading of the Bill was heard at Stormont on Monday 10th May and was voted through to the next stage with 58 votes for to 29 against.

The MLA said, “The seriousness of this debate could not be over stated. The Green Party Private Members Bill co-sponsored by Sinn Fein, UUP, SDLP and Alliance will decimate agriculture as we know it through policies and practices, that if implemented, will see inferior product filling our supermarket shelves from countries with much lower standards on food traceability and of course climate credentials. That is not progress, it is a backwards and retrograde step and that is why I voted against it along with my Party colleagues.

“As I have stated in the chamber at Stormont the Green Party, through Claire Bailey’s PMB, has managed to unite the farming and agri-food industry against this bill and with good reason given what is at stake.

“Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector is an economic mainstay in Northern Ireland delivering world class produce and supporting 100,000 jobs. To reduce output by half, which is what the Green Party PMB requires, would simply destroy the industry in Northern Ireland – I haven’t met one farmer yet who thinks this is a good idea.”

Mr Irwin continued: “There is of course a full realisation by the industry that whilst being only one cog in the economic wheel that must respond to climate change, agri-food and farming generally accepts that steps must be taken.

“However, what all the main stakeholders and representative organisations also know is that goals and benchmarks must be achievable and have a twin focus of good care for the environment and maintaining a sustainable agri-food industry.

“What is all the more concerning amongst the wider agri-food sector is the fact that should this Bill fully progress, it will cost many thousands of jobs directly linked to agri-food production as the Green Party Bill will demand such a heavy reduction in output. Without this output there will not be the requirement for the jobs and that will be catastrophic.”

He concluded: “The current pandemic has shown the importance of food supply chain security and whilst Northern Ireland has a great producer base, this is completely threatened by the unrealistic targets that would be set by Claire Bailey’s Bill. I therefore urge all farmers to contact their local Assembly representatives and urge them to halt this destructive Bill. Climate common sense must prevail.”

During Monday’s debate Mr Irwin told the chamber that the AERA Committee heard evidence from Lord Deben on his work on the Climate Change Committee, which has taken a long, detailed, scientific and wide-ranging view of the changes required and has drawn important conclusions that, whilst being a significant challenge, represent a much more achievable road map to the reductions required in line with the broader United Kingdom strategy.

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