Sinn Fein lack vision and ignore economic reality: Dodds

DUP MEP Diane Dodds and Newry and Armagh Assemblyman William Irwin MLA
DUP MEP Diane Dodds and Newry and Armagh Assemblyman William Irwin MLA

DUP MEP Diane Dodds comments on the latest anti Brexit document which she says ignores the realities for NI agriculture.

Sinn Fein continues to scaremonger on two main points.

1. The potential for a hard border – unfortunately for Sinn Fein it is only being mentioned by them. Neither Brussels, London nor Dublin are in support of a hard border and are working to ensure this is not the case.

2. The assumption that funding will be reduced under a new system is unfounded, in fact in recent weeks the current Government has pledged to continue funding at current levels until 2022 which is more certainty than Europe is currently offering. Unfortunately the current EU system does not reward productivity and efficiency and has no desire to deliver better profits for all farmers.

While Sinn Fein may aspire to be an all Ireland party it does not serve farmers well here in Northern Ireland, they are distracted by the issues facing the Republic of Ireland. The impact of Brexit in the Republic of Ireland is a worrying development given that their EU CAP budget allocation is predicted to decrease as the net contribution from the UK will no longer be available; Phil Hogan has suggested there could be a €3bn black hole in the CAP budget.

More worrying for the Republic is that in 2015 41% of all agri-food and drink exports went to the UK compared with 31% to the EU. Farmers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland recognise that the UK market is the most important market and anything which jeopardises that should be rejected.

While Sinn Fein may have found a new interest in agriculture to scaremonger and use for political ends I think we should all consider their track record on agriculture first.

The direction of the department for agriculture under Sinn Fein’s leadership has cost the NI tax payer in the region of £100 million in fines back to Europe in disallowances. Many farmers from the Fermanagh area in particular have been let down by a Sinn Fein devised young farmers scheme which was laden with red tape and the failure to deliver advanced single farm payments in times of economic difficulties.

In respect of the Single Farm Payment it was my party who stopped Sinn Fein raiding farmer’s money to pour into rural development schemes something which would have had a negative impact on farm incomes. This same party then used CAP funds through the Rural Development Programme to, in my view, disproportionally fund GAA clubs instead of directing more money towards farm modernisation or health and safety projects.

It would be much more productive if Sinn Fein listened to the industries concerns and their calls for a functioning executive to deliver for Northern Ireland agriculture. To add to this Sinn Fein talk about their influence and record of delivery yet they fail to even take their seats at Westminster. Instead their vision is to effectively call for a separation of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom via a special designated status.

Having spent four days at Balmoral Show and I have never once heard this being mentioned by our hardworking farming community.

They understand that Brexit is happening and want to maximise the opportunities which it brings, not like Sinn Fein who would like to use agriculture as a political football to drive forward the notion of a united Ireland via the back door.