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!
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.
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.
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.
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……