Monday morning began with a few hours in the Macroom constituency. After catching up with a number of calls I travelled to Limerick to attend the ICMSA AGM as a guest speaker. I was pleased to join my old colleague former Taoiseach John Bruton who addressed the meeting on Brexit. Following a challenging year in the dairy sector there was a lively exchange of views expressed, however I must say that the welcome was warm. I returned briefly to the Constituency before travelling to Dublin to ensure the December traffic wouldn’t prevent me attending cabinet in the morning.
A routine Tuesday morning with breakfast in the Department followed by a pre-cabinet meeting and Cabinet itself at 10am which continued past noon. I attended a quick photocall for an ESB Networks sponsored Farm Safety initiative before chairing a round table meeting of stakeholders involved in the pig sector. At 3pm I attended the Dáil chamber to pay tribute to former Tánaiste, and Fine Gael Deputy Leader, the great Peter Barry RIP. After the Dáil had paid its respects to Peter, I returned to the Department to meet with the Directors of Diageo Ireland to hear an overview of their activities in the Irish beverage sector which forms a major part of the Food Wise 2025 strategy as a growth driver. I concluded Tuesday’s business with a meeting with the Secretary General, Áine and Jonathan on on-going Department business.
I kick off Wednesday with an early meeting with Peter Heffernan of the Marine Institute before Chairing the Marine Co-ordination Committee which is the inter-departmental group tasked with over-seeing the implementation of the Harnessing our Ocean Wealth strategy. I’m afforded a short period to prepare for oral questions before attending Leader’s questions where my colleague Richard Bruton deputised for the Taoiseach who is in the US. Once the Order of Business concluded I field questions on issues such as the the RDP, GLAS, TB eradication, and Climate change. After about an hour and half on my feet in the Dáil I return to the Department to catch up on calls mainly from Constituents, before again returning to the Dáil chamber for a vote on the Adoption Bill.
Struggling with a heavy head cold, I catch the 10am Dublin Heathrow flight for an important day of events in London. First off is a meeting with the Irish ambassador to the UK, Dan Mulhall who provides a comprehensive overview on the political landscape in the UK post the Brexit referendum. After lunch we make the short trip to Whitehall to meet with my UK counterpart, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsome. We had a a good discussion on matters of mutual concern in terms of the UK’s impending departure from the UK. What I found reassuring from the meeting was the there is no shortage of common ground between us, the UK Government and importantly key stakeholders in the UK such as the major food retailers and the National Farmers Union. After the meeting I return to the Irish embassy for a media briefing before addressing a very large attendance of Irish food businesses and clients at the annual Bord Bia trade reception. Regrettably I could not remain to enjoy the festivities as I had to make the 10pm flight back to Cork for a busy Friday schedule.
Friday commences in the Department’s Sea Fisheries HQ in Clonakilty where I take a call from Morning Ireland at 8.30am to discuss events of the previous day. Afterwards I discuss the coming fortnight with officials, which will be crucial for the prospects of the industry for 2017. At 10 am I Chair a stakeholders consultation including representatives from the Fisheries Producer Organisations, environmental NGO’s, BIM, the Marine Institute and the Department. The purpose of the consultation is to discuss the forthcoming Fisheries Council meeting which will set out TAC’s and quotas for the sector for 2017. Following a two hour discussion business comes to a close with everybody very clear on the significant challenge that awaits us when we travel to Brussels in the coming days. From Clonakilty I make my way to my Macroom office for a number of meetings and then it’s onwards for a visit to one of the largest secondary schools in my Constituency. I pay a visit to my Ballincollig office in the evening before making my into the South Mall in Cork City where I was delighted to launch the impressive book on Farming & the Law, authored by Karen Walsh. My final engagement on Friday involved taking the a trip down west to Baltimore to address the Cork South West Fine Gael Constituency executive who were gathering for political and social purposes. Unfortunately my head cold has not lifted……a bad case of Minister-flu perhaps!