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
‘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