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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.