THE MINISTER’S JOURNAL 20/02 – 24/02

Monday

Began Monday with a number of meetings in my Macroom constituency office. After taking care of my morning commitments I traveled to Midelton where I was treated to a behind the scenes tour of the incredible Irish Distillers facility there. The Irish Whiskey industry is one of the real growth drivers in Ireland’s food and drinks export figures, with the Jameson brand leading the way. It was a fantastic experience to see first hand the production and endless storage facilities and furthermore to view the continued development on-site. After a most informative afternoon It was back to the office, this time in Ballincollig for a number of meetings with constituents. Finally I headed up the M8 once more – destination Dublin!

Tuesday

Cabinet begins proceedings for Tuesday, followed by a number of briefings in the Department. I spend the early afternoon at the Catex exhibition in the RDS where there is a buoyancy evident in terms of business being done. I make the short trip across to the Hebert Park hotel to attend the AGM of the Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Association. As is the case with all sectors I meet at this stage, the Brexit challenge is the issue of greatest concern amongst attendees.

Wednesday

An extra early start to Wednesday morning for an interview with Newstalk Breakfast. I am at pains to point out that despite the ongoing hype surrounding the Fine Gael leadership, it is very much business as usual (as readers of this will note) for me and my Government colleagues. I leave the studio and make my way to UCD to address the Agriculture science and nutrition class of 2017, on their careers day. One of the chief organisers of the event – Rachel White has strong Macroom connections and I could not help but be hugely impressed by her and her colleagues. The future of the Agri-food sector is very bright indeed. I return to the Department for a meeting with the Charges d’affaires from the US embassy in the main to discuss Trade and matters relating to Brexit as well as the Taoiseach’s forthcoming visit to Washington. Lunch is spent with the new General Secretary of the IFA Damian McDonald and President Joe Healy. From land to sea again in the afternoon as I chair a meeting of the Marine co-ordination committee where amongst other things we discuss the exciting plans for Seafest 2017. I just about make it to the Fine Gael party rooms for our weekly Parliamentary party meeting which I’m sure I don’t need to go into any detail on as you will have read about it elsewhere at this point.

Thursday

Following breakfast I’m briefed in detail on my Trade mission to Saudi Arabia and the UAE beginning at the weekend. Mid morning I meet with Macra na Feirme and the ICSA as part of ongoing consultations regarding our obligations under the EU nitrates directive in conjunction with my colleague Minister Damien English Minister of State in the Department of the Environment. Separately I again meet with Macra to discuss some broader issues that they wish to raise. Thursday afternoon is voting time in the Dáil. Later in the evening I belatedly (thanks to storm Doris!) welcome Hilary Benn MP and his colleagues of the UK committee on leaving the E.U. to discuss – well you guessed it. Finally its back on the M8 and homeward bound.
Friday:

I take some brief family time before preparing for my trip to the Gulf later in the evening. I will endeavour to provide as much information as possible of my trip through social media to highlight the importance of such Trade efforts- particularly now in the context of Brexit. Stay tuned……

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The Minister’s Journal 13/02 -18/02

Monday

Despite all the furore regarding the future of the Government, it was very much business as usual for me this week. Began Monday morning with a visit to a sports club in my Constituency to view their future development plans. Afterwards It was onwards to a local primary school to for a meeting with management of the school and the local development association. The afternoon is spent in the Macroom office ahead of a Public Meeting hosted by Fine Gael on our response to Brexit attended by the Taoiseach and Party colleagues. After the meeting which was well attended and wide ranging I headed for Dublin.

Tuesday

As has been well publicised at this point, Tuesday morning began with an extended pre- cabinet meeting of Fine Gael Ministers followed by Cabinet itself. Arrangements for a tribunal of inquiry to investigate matters pertaining to Sergeant Maurice McCabe naturally dominated the public agenda. However, as Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, I have a responsibility to adhere to my own duties, therefore it was straight into a meeting with the ICMSA post Cabinet. In the early afternoon I was joined by the Taoiseach for a meeting with the leaders of the Fishing industry to discuss their concerns in the context of Brexit. I sit in the Dáil chamber for a period as the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister Zappone take questions on Túsla. I return to the Department to participate in a detailed interview with Caitriona Murphy of the Irish Farmers Journal on GLAS payments. My final event of a busy Tuesday is a pleasant one as I welcome climate change experts from around the World to Bord Bia’s Thinking House.

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Wednesday

An early start on Wednesday with two meetings in conjunction with Minister Coveney one with the IFA and another with the ICMSA regarding the forthcoming review of our obligations under the EU nitrates directive. At noon I attended Leaders questions in the Dáil chamber followed by a meeting with the team from Agriaware regarding some of their ambitious plans. I briefly get the opportunity to meet with students from Millstreet Community School before addressing the Seanad on Climate Change. It’s a case of Chamber hopping as I proceed down stairs to the Dáil to contribute to the Motion of Confidence in the Government which thankfully was passed.

 

Thursday

A 7.30am Cabinet meeting to finalise the terms of reference for the forthcoming enquiry into the treatment of Garda whistleblowers began a busy Thursday. Attended voting in the Dáil chamber in the early afternoon followed by a meeting of Stakeholders involving the tillage sector which I chaired. I briefly had to leave the meeting to vote in the Dáil on the terms of reference as agreed earlier by Cabinet. Following the conclusion of the tillage forum I traveled to Portlaoise to address the AGM of the ICSA who were very gracious despite my late arrival.

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Friday:

Took advantage of the fine Spring morning to walk to Dublin Castle to attend the plenary session of the All Island Civic dialogue on Brexit. In the afternoon I chaired the module on the Economy, moderated by RTE’s Áine Lawlor. The Civic dialogue process has been most worthwhile in terms of allowing all sectors of society contribute to the debate and help shape the Government’s response to Brexit.

Saturday:

Without question the most pleasant event I attended in a busy week took place in the Field of Dreams in Curraheen, where the sod was turned on this magnificent project being developed by Down Syndrome Cork. Saturday evening I traveled west to Baile Mhuirne for the official launch of the 2017 Moonraker rally which will take place in the area in April. Closed off the week in Dromey’s Dromcarra to toast the 80th Birthday of my great friend and loyalist Nicholas Dromey!

 

The Minister’s Journal 06/02 – 10/02

Monday

A day of “looking after the ranch” operating between the Macroom and Ballincollig Constituency offices. Monday night’s schedule involved a media interview and the Ballincollig Fine Gael branch AGM before traveling to Dublin.

Tuesday

Following breakfast and a glance at the papers it’s clear that matters arising from RTE’s Prime Time Investigates will be very topical at this mornings Cabinet meeting. It’s early afternoon before the meeting finishes and I have an opportunity for a catch-up with my advisors before attending a meeting of the Export Trade Council. Tuesday evening is spent in briefings with officials and attending votes in the Dáil chamber.

Wednesday

The team and I make the short walk across the road to the Department of Jobs Enterprise & Innovation for an important meeting with Minister of State Pat Breen and the Health & Safety Authority on Farm Safety. Hopefully I’ll have much more to report on this front in the coming weeks. I return to the Department reception for a photo call for the Irish Independent Zurich Farmer of the Year launch. I sit in briefly for Leaders questions in the Dáil before traveling to the City North a hotel for our second All Island Civic dialogue on Brexit, this time discussing Horticulture forestry cereal animal feed and the prepared consumer food sector. The experience of these dialogues has been positive in the main with stakeholders offered the platform to express their concerns surrounding Brexit and therefore contributing to our Government preparations.

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Thursday

With Brexit shaping our every action in the Department, scoping Trade opportunities is a priority. This morning I was pleased to welcome ambassadors from the Association of South East Asian Nations to discuss strengthening and building trade links. After a positive meeting with the Ambassadors I attend in the Seanad chamber to respond to a commencement motion regarding GLAS payments. After Christmas lunch with the team in my office (better late…) I meet with the IT division in the Department to discuss ongoing payments etc. Following voting time in the Dáil I departed the Capital to make the long journey south go Gaeltacht Mhuscraì, agus criunniu chinn bliana FG Baile Mhuirne – Cuil Aodha.
Friday:

Scoil Bhride Ballydehob is my first stop of an inspiring, poignant yet upbeat morning of events in the Mizen area. Safety awareness on the farm and at sea is the theme of a series of events organised by the community. From Mizen Rovers GAA, to the corporate sponsors, the Emergency services to the schools the power of this collective effort to deliver such an important message certainly left an impression on me. Great credit is due to the organisers particularly Jonathan and Nellie! I spend the afternoon in the Constituency office and round off the week with some down time shouting on a rampant Munster in a freezing Musgrave Park.

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Ministerland 30/01 – 04/02

Monday
As days go these times this was as routine a Monday possible. I spent the day in the main attending to Constituency matters. Later in the evening I attended the Macroom Fine Gael branch AGM before traveling to Dublin late.

Tuesday

At 8.30am I attended the launch of Ireland’s newest whiskey brand “Roe & Co”. Our drinks industry is one of the real growth drivers in our export figures in recent years and I’m confident that this innovation by Diageo will prove another winner on the world stage. I return to Government buildings for Cabinet followed by a brief meeting with Áine and Jonathan. My next engagement takes me to IBEC HQ for the launch of the Beef Health Check initiative in association with Animal Health Ireland. In the afternoon I meet with officials from the Departments Sea Fisheries section to prepare for Wednesdays events.

Wednesday

I spring into February with an early morning announcement of the 2017 allocation to our Fisheries Local Actions Groups, in Dun Laoghaire. The FLAGs initiative is co funded through the Europe Maritime Fisheries fund and provides funding to locally based projects in coastal areas. From Dun Laoghaire I travel directly to the Dáil to attend Leaders questions. After lunch its back to matters maritime as I host a Brexit sectoral dialogue for the seafood sector. The potential challenges for this particular sector were laid bare over the course of an engaging afternoon of discussions. I attend the weekly Fine Gael Parliamentary Party and a number of votes in the Dáil before rounding off the day in preparation for Oral questions on Thursday.

 

Thursday

After my usual breakfast ritual I sit down with RTE’s Emma McNamara for a good conversation on the exposure of our Agri food sector to
Brexit. Afterwards I travel to Clondalkin to officially open the impressive Ballyowen Equine centre. I’m joined at the event by the Tanaiste, Oireachtas colleagues and local councillors but we are left in little doubt that Deputy Gino Kenny is the hero of the hour as a key driving force behind this Department of Agriculture funded facility. I return to my office just in time to greet the new Sudanese ambassador. Thursdays voting time leads directly on to Oral questions where I face ninety minutes of scrutiny on a range of issues including GLAS payments, the ANC review, the future of the beef sector and the new €150 million Agri Loan Fund. After questions a I make a hasty departure from Dublin in order to attend the Fine Gael Fermoy district AGM as guest speaker. I return to Macroom after midnight which is an improvement on the previous weeks 3am arrival.

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Friday:

It’s celebrate Cork day! First on the agenda is a meeting with the new President of UCC Professor Pat O’Shea and a briefing from the academic management and staff of the UCC school of Food Science and Engineering. From UCC it’s onward to the Tyndall institute for a briefing on some of their projects in the area of Agri technology. I depart the City somewhat in awe of the talent, innovation and commitment of those involved in our Agri-food sector whom I’ve just encountered. This feeling is compounded after I spend the afternoon in a significant food processing plant in the outskirts of the City. To confirm my sense of admiration in our sector I attend the annual Cork Chamber Gala dinner to witness Dairygold claim the 2017 Cork Company of the year award.

Saturday:

No lie in for the management and board of Carbery this Saturday as they make time to meet me at 9.30am to discuss a range of matters. Deputy Jim Daly is my host in Bandon where I take a gauntlet of meetings from tillage farmers to the Irish Show Association to IFA members from the Islands of Cape Clear, Sherkin and Bere. After emerging from the scrum I have the honour of officially opening the latest venture of the renowned Barrett family Coppeen at their new Barrett Agri facility. As for the rugby….the less said and all that.

The Minister’s Journal 23/01 -27/01

Monday

As is routine for Council of Ministers meetings in Brussels, I begin the day with a breakfast meeting with fellow Agriculture Ministers from the E.P.P. Group. This is always a useful opportunity to discuss matters in a more informal setting with some of The E.U’s most influential Agriculture Ministers and of course Commissioner Hogan who also attends. After breakfast I make the short walk to the Council building for the AgriFish Council meeting where international trade, the current market situation and the future of the sheep sector are all items up for discussion. After a long day of discussion it’s a late evening flight back to Dublin for an extremely busy week ahead.

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Tuesday

An early start to Tuesday for an appearance on TV3s Ireland AM programme for a chat about the Governments comprehensive Rural Action Plan. From Ballymount its back into the City for Cabinet in Government buildings. Early afternoon I take a call from LIT campus radio who are keen to discuss the Rural Action Plan. I spend the evening in meetings with officials, Premier horse care Ireland and my advisors.

Wednesday

After breakfast I sit down with senior officials with responsibility for the GLAS scheme and the Departments IT functions. Every resource available so being thrown at ensuing the earliest payment of the 9,000 or so outstanding applicants. Next up is a photo call for an important launch being made early next week. I attend Leaders questions in the Dáil in the early afternoon. Before settling in to an evening of pre-briefing for a packed Thursday I meet with the Secretary General to discuss ongoing Departmental issues.

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Thursday

If I were to be paid per mention of the term Brexit today, it’s fair to say my Salary would come under some serious scrutiny. First up are members of the Environment, Rural Development and Agriculture Committee of the Welsh assembly who wish to discuss our Agri environment schemes and unsurprisingly Brexit. No sooner have my Welsh colleagues left the room but Commissioner Phil Hogan and his Cabinet arrive to discuss a number of agricultural items and unsurprisingly Brexit. My schedule of meetings is broken up by voting time in the Dáil but when I resume I meet with a significant operator in the Northern Ireland dairy industry who wish to discuss- unsurprisingly – Brexit. I attend two Cabinet subcommittees in the evening the first on Economy Trade & and Jobs and the second on; unsurprisingly; Brexit. I leave Dublin in great haste to travel to Kiltegan Co Wicklow for a well attended public meeting hosted by Minister of State Andrew Doyle. No surprises as to what the item up for discussion is…….I depart Wicklow late and return to Macroom at 2.45am for the first time in 11 days.

Friday

I have little opportunity to acquaint myself with the family as it’s off to Fermoy to Teagasc Moorepark for the launch of Teagasc’s Grass 10 initiative. I take the opportunity following the launch to take a tour of the facility and be briefed on some of the ambitious plans being developed on the campus. I round off the week with a few hours in the Constituency office followed by a pleasant evening in Clonakilty to pay tribute to Noel O’Donovan who is moving on from Cork County Council. Noel has been a most admirable member of the Council over the past number of years. I wish him well on his next posting.img_0257

The Minister’s Journal 16/01 -22/01

Monday

Monday was Constituency office day. With a busy week ahead including a trip abroad it was good to have the opportunity to look after some Constituency representations with Catherine & Siobhan. Later in the evening I attended the press launch for the 2017 Cork 20 Rally which will be headquartered in Macroom. This is a significant sporting event and will be of great benefit to businesses in the area who I’m sure will have a bumper weekend (apologies). Afterwards I headed to Inchigeelagh for their Fine Gael branch AGM, where a good discussion was had on a range of matters both local and national.

Tuesday

A 5.30am departure from Macroom in order to make Dublin in time for Cabinet. Agriculture is centre stage in the Dáil this week due to a Private members motion being tabled on Wednesday on the difficulties faced in the tillage sector over the past number of months. I brief colleagues on my position and they endorse the approach. Post cabinet I meet with the NTMA followed by Senator Tim Lombard who expresses his support for tillage farmers in his area. The afternoon is dominated by preparations for the IFA AGM later in the evening and Wednesdays Dáil debate. I travel to the Farm centre at 4.30pm accompanied by the Sec Gen, Minister of State Doyle and Jonathan (advisor). After taking questions from the media I then address the meeting before a two hour marathon Q&A with members of the IFA executive Council. Throughout the day I had been in contact with opposition spokespersons on Agriculture to inform them of my proposals on the tillage situation and seeking their support. I learn when I return to the car that the debate is to proceed with each side maintaining their respective positions. I return to the Department at about eight to prepare for what promises to be an eventful Wednesday.

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Wednesday

8am breakfast, a flick through the newspapers and straight into meetings with officials. At 10am I meet with the team from Farm Relief Services who have concerns regarding the availability of skilled workers and appropriate training in some instances in the agricultural sector. In the early afternoon I attend in the Dáil chamber for Leaders questions. Afterwards, while an IFA protest congregates I finalise preparations for Private members time. Immediately before entering the Chamber I receive confirmation of a case of atypical BSE in an 18 year old cow. I sit in the Dáil chamber listening to contributions and criticisms conscious of the news about to break outside. My primary concern is that the case will be reported proportionally and responsibly which I’m pleased to note it was. Following the debate I spend a number of hours in my office.

 

Thursday

Following breakfast I have an early meeting with Michael Ewing and his team from the Environmental pillar to discuss issues such as the climate change challenge from an agricultural perspective. In the afternoon I attend the Dáil for voting time. Today is a day of goodbyes. Firstly I have lunch with outgoing Bord Bia CEO Aidan Cotter who leaves behind quite the legacy. €11billion in Agri-food and drinks exports in 2016 is where Aidan passes the baton to his successor Tara McCarthy. After a pleasant lunch there is a  lively “tea party” going on outside my office when I return for the wonderful Geraldine who is retiring after 44 years in the Department. Alas I’m only a side show at this event as Geraldine only has eyes for Minister Coveney who shows up in time to surprise the lady of the hour.

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Friday

I spend Friday morning in meetings and with the Department Brexit unit. Prime Minister May’s speech during the week certainly quickened pulses across the world. Our considered and multi faceted approach to Brexit continues at the weekend as I travel to Berlin in the afternoon for the ninth Agriculture Minister’s Conference as part of the Global forum on Food & Agriculture.

Saturday

Berlin is the centre of the Agricultural world for the day as 70 Ministers from around the World including 20 from EU member states attend to discuss the importance of water as a key to future food security. I take the opportunity to meet my EU colleagues and where possible discuss matters Brexit on a one to one basis. These efforts will gather pace significantly in the coming weeks starting tomorrow Sunday when I travel to Brussels ahead of a Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting.

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Sunday

I took advantage of my Sunday in Berlin by meeting with the UK Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs Andrea Leadsome.  Brexit and Northern Ireland were the main topics of discussion before I made my to the airport for my flight to Brussels and another busy week ahead.

 

 

THE MINISTER JOURNAL 09/01 – 13/01

Monday

Happy New Year! After the excitement of spending my Sunday at Aghabullogue Point to Point, I “eased” myself into my first official week of business for 2017 with a number of meetings in my Macroom office. Mid morning I travelled to Millstreet to meet with members of Irish Farmers with Designated Lands (IFDL) to discuss a range of issues pertaining to the problems they face by virtue of their lands being designated as protected habitats for the hen harrier. I spend the afternoon attending to some paperwork built up over the Christmas holiday period.

Tuesday

Made my first trip to Dublin of the year on Tuesday morning. My first engagement was a meeting with Minister Coveney and his officials to discuss Ireland’s obligations under the EU Nitrates directive. 2017 is an important year in this regard with our derogation under the directive up for review. Following the meeting I catch-up with the SG and his team for a briefing on ongoing matters. In the afternoon I attend the first Cabinet meeting of the year before spending the evening reviewing the 2016 Irish food & beverage figures prepared by Bord Bia and being published in the morning.

 

 

Wednesday

An early start to Wednesday to make the short trip to RTÉ to discuss the performance of Irish food & drinks exports in 2016. A 2% increase on 2015 seeing exports exceed the €11 billion mark for the first time ever is an encouraging landmark particularly in light of the challenges faced by the sector on foot of the reduction in the value of trade with the U.K. post the June Brexit referendum. Following the interview I officially launch the Bord Bia report at their HQ where there is heightened interest in the figures from the gathered media who are keen to learn how the Brexit decision has impacted on trade to date. After a number of interviews I return to the Department. In the afternoon I was fortunate to visit the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in the RDS where I was overwhelmed by the the maturity and knowledge of all the pupils I met from many different schools across the Country. Amongst those I met were Jack & Michael from Colaiste Treasa Kanturk who went on to win the best group award.  Later in the evening I meet with Senator Colm Burke who briefs me on the current difficulties in CUMH.

Thursday

First up Thursday morning is a number of press interviews in my office. In the afternoon I chair a meeting of the Marine Coordination Group. I meet with Senior officials in my Department for an update on schemes and payments before departing for the Farm Centre to attend a most pleasant event hosted by the Irish Farmers Journal. Unfortunately I curtail my stay at the event to ensure the Wintery weather doesn’t see me stranded in Dublin for the night. Luckily the journey home is without incident!!
Friday

I spend Friday morning in the Macroom office reviewing constituency matters with Catherine & Siobhan. After lunch I launched a Certificate in Brewing & Distilling in CIT which I believe to be a very useful initiative in conjunction with Taste4Success Skillnet. I conclude Friday with a series of meetings in the Ballincollig office.

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