I started off Monday morning by spending a few hours in the Macroom constituency office in an attempt to catch up on some work built up while I was in Morocco last week. Took the road to Dubin at 11am in order to attend a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Brexit. Given the potential impact of Brexit on Ireland it requires a “whole of Government” approach to deal with it, and this committee offers a forum to monitor and address comprehensively all of the issues involved. Following the meeting I spend the afternoon in the Department in preparation for a busy week ahead.
The one benefit of travelling to Dublin on Monday is that it rules out the need of a 5am start on Tuesday in order to reach Cabinet for 9.45am. Following Cabinet I meet with NewERA (New Economy and Recovery Authority) who provide centralised financial and commercial advisory services and acts as a dedicated source of corporate finance advice to Ministers of the Government with respect to designated bodies. Afterwards I address an ICOS Conference in the Convention centre before travelling back to Cork City for a meeting with the Norwegian Minister for Agriculture Jon Georg Dale.
Notwithstanding the news from the USA, for me it was a real positive start to Wednesday morning at the Dairygold plant Mogeely where I join Minister Dale along with the management of TINE Norway and Dairygold to launch a strategic partnership for the production of the world renowned “Jarlsberg” cheese brand in Mogeely. This represents a significant vote of confidence in the Irish dairy industry. Following the launch I travel to Dublin for the second time in 48 hours where I spend the afternoon in the Department in briefings with officials.
A packed Thursday schedule began with a meeting with Animal Health Ireland. The AHI functions as a partnership between private sector organisations and businesses in the agri-food sector and my Department. Following the meeting I walk to Newstalk studios to join a useful and positive panel discussion on Irish farming with Anna May McHugh of Ploughing fame and Peter Byrne of Farm relief services on the Pat Kenny Show. I return to the Department to meet with SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie and representatives of the Ulster Farmers Union to discuss the North South implications of Brexit. I spend the late afternoon in the Dáil and then it’s back on to the M8 again to return to Cork.
Friday I had the privilege of visiting Bandon Grammar school in the Cork South West constituency. Here I spoke to Agricultural science students and made a pitch to them to consider the agri food sector as an area to consider in terms of pursuing their career options. I was put through my paces during a Q&A session with the students where I faced questions on Brexit, Trump, climate change and milk prices for good measure. My colleague Jim Daly joined me on the visit. We took the opportunity to do a tour of the school and see first-hand the excellent work being done there, particularly on the IT side where the school have showed tremendous innovation in engaging with industry to develop a system for the school using cloud computing which minimises the need for expensive investment in hardware. This is a model which could be used across schools and certainly piqued Jim’s interest as a member of the Joint Oireachtas committee for Education.