Ken Whe­lan

Farm­ing is­sues will be top of the agenda for for­mer ICMSA pres­i­dent John Comer if he se­cures a Fi­anna Fáil nom­i­na­tion for next year’s Euro­pean elec­tions, writes

Irish Independent - Farming - - ANALYSIS -

‘IT’S Fi­anna Fáil or not at all,” is John Comer’s pithy sum­mary of his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. The for­mer ICMSA pres­i­dent has been ap­proached by FF party ac­tivists in the west about a can­di­dacy in next year’s Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions, and it seems to be a ques­tion of when rather than if he de­clares his can­di­dacy.

Not a man to hurl from the ditch, Mr Comer says it’s time for vot­ers to “get real” about Europe and to ditch the “pig in the poke do-noth­ing par­ties and in­de­pen­dents” come polling next May.

Fi­anna Fáil has no EU par­lia­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the sprawl­ing Mid­land­sNorth­west four-seater con­stituency, which stretches from Meath to Done­gal.

At the last Euro­pean elec­tions in 2014, FF stood party stal­warts Pat ‘the Cope’ Gal­lagher and Thomas Byrne, but a split vote along geo­graph­i­cal lines ceded the seats to Mairead McGuin­ness (FG), Matt McCarthy (SF) and in­de­pen­dents ‘Ming’ Flana­gan and Mar­ian Harkin.

“I am meet­ing party ac­tivists in the con­stituency at the mo­ment and I am get­ting a great re­cep­tion to the idea (of run­ning),” says Mr Comer.

“We’ll see what hap­pens but it is essen­tial that the nom­i­na­tion process takes place in Oc­to­ber to give whomever the party se­lects enough time be­tween now and May to cover what is a huge con­stituency.”

The Mayo dairy farmer looks a good fit for a FF nom­i­na­tion. He is a life­long sup­porter of the party and has a proven vote-get­ting abil­ity, as demon­strated when he com­fort­ably won the pres­i­dency of the ICMSA four years ago.

He feels that his work with var­i­ous EU eco­nomic and so­cial com­mit­tees while he was ICMSA pres­i­dent will stand him in good stead.

Mr Comer is an unapolo­getic pro-Euro­pean who be­lieves a strong union is the only po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic way for­ward for Ire­land and the con­ti­nent.

“The Treaty of Rome our fu­ture,” he says. “There is a great em­pa­thy for farm­ers through­out Europe — much more em­pa­thy than the gen­eral Ir­ish pop­u­la­tion has for farm­ers — and we can tap into this.”

Mr Comer ex­pects farm­ing is­sues to fig­ure promi­nently on doorsteps if he is on the ticket.

He be­lieves there needs to be a com­plete reap­praisal of how both farm­ers and con­sumers are be­ing treated by multi­na­tional food com­pa­nies and re­tail­ers.

A new “coali­tion of farm­ers and con­sumers” is needed, he says, to re­bal­ance the eco­nom­ics of Ir­ish and Euro­pean food mar­kets and en­sure fairer food prices for farm­ers and con­sumers alike.

“Com­pa­nies like Nestlé and Tesco, who have turnovers run­ning into the bil­lions across Europe, need to be tack­led,” he says.

“These mid­dle­men are squeez­ing the farm­ers at one end of the sup­ply chain and then the con­sumers at the other end.

“It is to­tally dis­pro­por­tion­ate and has to be tack­led on a Europe-wide ba­sis.

“This huge profit-tak­ing from agri­cul­ture has to stop.”

Mr Comer also be­lieves that the es­tab­lished par­ties need to de­velop a “much

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