Tuesday, 4 October 1966
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. Haughey): It has been, and remains, my policy to work in the closest collaboration with farming organisations, believing that to be the best way to foster mutual goodwill and understanding. The tenor of the speech by the President of the NFA at the Association's annual general meeting in August and the attitude of the Association since then suggest, however, that this organisation has decided as a matter of policy to suspend constructive co-operation with myself and the Government. As soon as the NFA show, as I earnestly hope they will do without delay, that they are prepared to resume co-operation and discussion in a constructive atmosphere, I shall be happy to meet them again.
Mr. Donegan: I am very glad the Minister said what he has said in his last sentence. I wonder could he possibly elaborate on it a little further and say: “Let us be friends”. This is a good place to say it and I am sure they would befriend him.
Mr. Haughey: May I point out something to the Deputy? I have gone to the trouble of looking up the record. I became Minister for Agriculture in October, 1964, and between that and the end of the year. I received an NFA deputation about one thing or another on five occasions. During 1965 I received deputations on 24 occasions. There was not one month during 1965 that I did not receive a deputation from the NFA, except the month of August, and in most months I met them three or four times. During 1966, again, I met them  at least once every month and during most months on two or three occasions—19 occasions in all during 1966——
Mr. Haughey: These were meetings in which I participated personally and I think these figures give a clear indication that it is my earnest desire at all times to meet this farming organisation and to work with them in the closest possible harmony for the solution of the day-to-day problems in agriculture.
Mr. Donegan: The fact that the Minister has indicated the number of times it is necessary to meet the NFA surely indicates that these meetings were, in fact, necessary? There is a great difficulty now when he is not meeting them.
Mr. Haughey: I was talking to some of my farming friends in Cork. I have many farming friends in Cork and I assured them that, as far as I was concerned, there was no need for any farmer in Cork to drive, fly or march to Dublin, that if they had any particular problems in Cork about farming they wanted to talk about, I am in Cork very often and I would be delighted to see them down there.
Mr. Haughey: I have no desire whatever to enter into public controversy with any farming organisation. That could do no good. I think farmers who have gazed with some dismay on the existing dissension between farm organisations would not welcome another public squabble between  this organisation and the Minister. Since I became Minister for Agriculture, I have deliberately refrained from replying to the innumerable criticisms of me, which emanated from this particular quarter. I think I have shown admirable restraint at all times. Time and again I could have replied to criticism of one sort or another but I have deliberately refrained from doing so and, as far as this situation is concerned, my hands are absolutely clean.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): Is it not a fact that the Minister replied to the last criticism of himself by the NFA by breaking off negotiations with the NFA and by refusing to meet them? Does the Minister deny the right to the NFA to criticise him and the Government publicly?
Mr. Haughey: The NFA consistently, day in, day out—they have a very expensive and elaborate propaganda machine—put over their point of view which is, as often as not, critical of the Minister. I have deliberately refrained from entering into any controversy by replying to those criticisms. I cancelled one meeting for the simple reason that I think that if you are going to have an acrimonious meeting in a certain atmosphere, it is better not to have a meeting at all.
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