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Action Needed on Town Centres



The politics of facilitating developers means that the state serves those who shout the loudest or who are best connected, instead of what is best for the public. It also leads to bad decisions about where to site housing or services with consequences clear from the recent floods.


On Saturday January 23rd, Tipperary Greens engaged in a canvass at Clonmel Farmers’ Market with election candidate Gearóid Fitzgibbon. Businessman and founder of Longways Cider, James O’Donoghue said that the team found people were very receptive, raising issues which included support for small farmers and local food producers. After the canvass, local members took me on a tour of the town centre and Market Place Shopping Centre. This large retail development anchored around a Super Valu (formerly Superquinn) outlet, shut last week with the loss of over 40 jobs – another loss of jobs in the market place area, where previously many businesses employed in excess of 100 people.

High rates and parking charges, along with a lack of footfall are contributing to this town centre’s demise and the issues affecting Clonmel are similar to those in other parts of the county where the over-supply of edge of town shopping (which benefit from easy access and free parking), squeezes the lifeblood from the town centres.

Unless we want our town centres to become ghost towns, local authorities must rebalance the scales in favour of town centres and small locally owned businesses. This can be done by make rates fairer and reducing parking charges, which are in effect a penalty on centre of town business. Parking charges and high commercial rates helped address local authorities lack of income as a result of the scrapping of local rates as an election stunt in 1977. With property tax now funding local authorities, it is overdue time to review parking charges and the rates system.

“In the longer term” says Con Traas, local Green Chair, “Tipperary Greens are seeking to fundamentally change attitudes to development. The current model favours larger over smaller, and multinational over local business, and all the while too many politicians seem prepared to vote in favour of any development which might lead to a ribbon-cutting event that gets their pictures in the paper. Councils need to actively reverse this, as well as increasing the provision of quality housing in and close to our historic and beautiful town centres.”

The Greens are the only party in the country with a clear record on planning. We have consistently opposed the kind of bad planning which puts houses, shops and services in the wrong places and creates a car dependant culture. Good urban planning creates human scale towns, with housing near shops and services.

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IFA Raises Payment Concerns with Dept at Charter of Rights Meeting



Speaking at a Charter of Rights meeting with the Department of Agriculture this week, the IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe said it’s absolutely essential that the maximum number of applicants in tranche 19 of TAMS are approved as soon as possible to provide certainty to farmers who are planning to carry out work.

IFA Rural Development Chairman Michael Biggins welcomed confirmation that payment of the ANC balancing payment will commence next week.

He stressed the importance of paying the remaining farmers as soon as they meet their stocking density requirements, which the Dept confirmed happens on a weekly basis.  Farmers will be paid as soon as they meet the required stocking density, which in some cases will run to the end of the year.

Michael Biggins also called on the Dept to pay the ANC to farmers who omitted in error to tick the ANC box on their BPS application this year.  “A system where a farmer has to ‘opt out’ rather the ‘opt in’ would ensure there are fewer errors when submitting applications,” he said.

IFA Deputy President Brian Rushe welcomed the payment of the BPS balancing payment which commenced this week.  “The Dept also confirmed the issue around transfer of entitlement, which held up payments of around 1,000 farmers, has been resolved for most at this stage and the remaining ones will be resolved in the next week,” he said.

IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden has welcomed DAFM facilitation of farmers who made ‘Draft applications’ to BEEP-S scheme and who had operated under the impression they were participating in the scheme by carrying out measures on their farms. IFA had raised this issue directly with the Department of Agriculture and the acceptance of these farmers into the scheme is the right decision.

Regarding the Beef Finishers Payment, Brendan Golden again called for cattle exported for slaughter in the reference period to be paid on from the surplus in the Beef Finishers Payment fund.

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IFA Launches Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements



IFA National Farm Business Chair Rose Mary McDonagh and Martin Stapleton, Chairman of the IFA Debt Support Service, have launched a Guide to Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA).

IFA Debt Support Service was established following the last recession to provide specific support to farmers in arrears.

The confidential service is comprised of an experienced team of IFA volunteers working with professional support to provide assistance to IFA members in financial difficulty.

Martin Stapleton said IFA has worked with over 500 farmers over the last few years. While the numbers in difficulty are reducing, recent weeks have seen an increase in activity from vulture funds since the COVID-19 Payment Breaks came to an end.

“This guide is available on IFA’s website and will serve as a useful resource for farmers in arrears seeking to protect their family home and farm land,” he said.

A Personal Insolvency Arrangement (PIA) is a debt resolution mechanism outlined in the Personal Insolvency Act, which acts as an insolvency solution for people with unsecured and secured debt.

Rose Mary McDonagh added that a PIA can provide a debtor with protection from their creditors and on completion, a debtor will return to solvency.

At present, the Oireachtas is considering one of two Bills which will reform the area of personal insolvency and amend the current eligibility requirements for a PIA. Rose Mary McDonagh said the definition of relevant debt should be expanded to include debt prior to 2015, and debt secured in or over a debtor’s income reliant/core asset.

The IFA Debt Support Service can be contacted, in confidence, at 1890 924 853.

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EU Must Complete an Impact Assessment of Green Strategies



Speaking after a meeting of European Farm Leaders (COPA) with EU Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans yesterday, IFA President Tim Cullinan said that the EU must complete a full impact assessment of the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

“I told the Commissioner a full impact assessment is needed to determine how much implementing these strategies will cost,” he said.

“Frans Timmermans has threatened to withdraw the Commission’s own CAP proposal if it doesn’t take more account of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Yet he has no idea how much these strategies will cost or who will pay for them,” he said.

“People are quoting all these targets without any consideration for their impact on output or on production costs of farmers. Farmers cannot be left to carry the can on this,” he said.

“We also need Teagasc to do an assessment of the impact in Ireland. We are currently deep in discussions on the Agrifood 2030 strategy, but again we have a data vacuum,” he said.

“It’s incredible that the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture has examined the impact of ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy on farm incomes, output and trade and neither the EU nor Ireland has,” he said.

“The US report predicts that as a result of the strategy, farm incomes would be reduced by 16%. This is as a consequence of the expected loss of production by 12% across the EU which would not be offset by the 17% increase in market prices.”

“If these measures were implemented, the report predicts a loss in output at an EU level which would cause exports to fall by 20% and imports would increase by 2%. The knock-on effect of these changes in trade is predicted to increase the cost of food by €132 per person in the EU.”

“If these figures are correct, they would be devastating for European farmers. Yet the EU Commission doesn’t know, or won’t tell us, what their assessment of the impact will be,” he said.

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