Here are some Sinn Féin policies and statements – the real ones, not the ones our opponents accuse us of -on Agriculture & Rural Ireland:
Rebuilding Rural Ireland: Rural Ireland has long suffered from a lack of support and investment. Sinn Féin believes in harnessing what rural Ireland has to offer rather than looking at how it can be targeted for cuts. We believe in vibrant and resourced rural communities that have equality of access to essential services such as schools, healthcare, post offices and policing. Sinn Féin supports the community spirit and way of life that is characteristic of rural Ireland, and we believe that through utilising the unique offering of rural Ireland and its people that sustainable rural economies can be built offer meaningful employment opportunities to rural dwellers, including expansion of the agricultural and fishing industries. In government, Sinn Féin has overseen the launch of the ‘Rural White Paper Action Plan’ to ensure cross-departmental activity in tackling rural poverty and social isolation, and to make Executive proposals in relation tourism, recreation, rural employment, food production, and the conservation of our cultural heritage and the environment a major priority.
In 2010, Sinn Féin produced a report for the Joint Oireachtas committee on Enterprise, Trade and
Employment entitled What is Required to Expand Employment in the Agri-Food Sector? This
document outlined the huge importance of the indigenous sector for growth and job creation. It
looked at all aspects of the agri-food industry with the objective of identifying strengths and
weaknesses and drawing up a list of recommendations on future strategy.
That agri-food is the strongest indigenous sector is underlined by the fact that less than 17%
of raw material inputs are imported compared to over 60% for the manufacturing sector overall.
That means that it is in a stronger position for growth if the proper focus is placed on exploiting
Ireland’s comparative advantage as a food producer, processor and exporter. The importance of
this in the current economic climate cannot be underestimated.
One of the significant findings of the report is the resilience of the agri-food sector relative to
other sectors of the Irish economy. While the past two years have witnessed a sharp fall in the
numbers employed across all sectors, most agri-food companies reported an increase in
employment. It was also found that smaller enterprises were less likely than bigger concerns to
have made workers redundant. That also has significance in terms of the robustness of smaller
indigenous firms and their position within the domestic economy, suggesting a greater resistance
to the global trends that have impacted far more severely in other sectors, including other
The agri-food report is extensive and can be accessed online at http://www.sinnfein.ie. We set out
here the key findings in relation to job creation. (We deal with the issue of labeling in our
business competitiveness section).
Sinn Féin proposals:-
- The establishment of a regulatory impact analysis process for the agri-food sector thatlooks at the burdens being placed on enterprises by excessive regulation with a view tocreating efficiencies within the regulatory system.
- Establish a forum of all supermarket suppliers and members of each producerorganisation, who subsequently set up a working committee of each representative
group/sub-sector, to negotiate a fair trading regime on behalf of suppliers, possibly on
an all-Ireland basis.
- VAT, Excise and Corporation Tax differentials along with sterling depreciation cost our
economy dearly and create crippling disadvantages for both jurisdictions. An All-Ireland
Economic Committee made up of decision-makers from the Dáil and the Assembly
must be constituted in order to steer both jurisdictions towards convergence in these
- The scandal of dioxin-contaminated Irish pork products is an example of the damage a
disjointed ministerial approach can have on our international food brand. Agriculture,
like other sectors, naturally operates on an all-Ireland basis. As a result it is imperative
that the ‘Food Island’ brand be safeguarded by all-Ireland standards. This necessitates
an all-Ireland agricultural body to implement such standards.
- Educational courses to prepare people for careers in the agri-food should be developed and therein provision should be made for the availability of the courses on a full-time andpart-time basis to accommodate farmers, fishermen, etc.
- Commission Regulation (EC) No 1857/2006 of 15 December 2006 on the application of Article 87 and 88 of the Treaty to state aid to small and medium-sized enterprises active
in the production of agricultural products should be utilised wholly to introduce a process
of job rotation to provide work while enhancing skills of people at work.
Sinn Féin Jobs & Investment Plan 2012 (pp.45-48) – Doing things the co-op way
Imagine an industry that could both create jobs and fulfil gaps in public service provision.
Imagine a company that puts its workers front and centre and returns profits back into the
community of those workers for the benefit of them and their families. Imagine a company that
continually invests in itself, rather than siphoning off profits, to ensure its development and
sustainability in a changing world and labour environment. Imagine a new business that saves
recently redundant workers from going on the dole, using their combined experiences and know-
how in their field.
Most people could not even begin to imagine such a socially beneficial creation in these times
of jobs losses, deteriorating public service provision and an industrial race to the bottom.
And yet it does exist. The social enterprise model has been in existence for centuries.
Everybody is aware of charities and not-for-profit society groupings but fewer people are aware
of the work of co-operatives. They may know the term but they don’t know what it entails, or
how it can be of use in getting us out of the economic crisis.
As the recession continues and current Government policy continues to shrink the economy
and state provision, more and more people are wondering how they can make their own
contribution to economic recovery, in spite of Government policy.
Some of these people will begin to explore the co-operative option and this is an option that
Sinn Féin believes in strongly.
Often called ‘the third sector’ (not corporate and not voluntary), we believe that the co-
operative model can create jobs. We believe the model can fill the gap left in public service. We
believe it can help Ireland establish a new type of industry for itself, a more sustainable and
WHAT ARE CO-OPERATIVES?
Co-operatives already exist in Ireland though not in large numbers. Credit unions are well-known
co-ops but the most famous and most successful Irish co-op developments to date have been in
the agriculture sector. Most of the large dairy organisations, like Dairygold, began as co-ops,
though they have since become hybrid organisations (they’ve diluted their original co-op status).
Some of these originally very successful co-ops have become large conglomerates, and profits, not
to mention bureaucracy, have become more important than the original ideas and shared
community ethos which led to their formation. It’s not a bad thing that co-ops can go on to be so
successful – but the rebirth of a co-op as a large international company should not mean that
communities are deprived of the benefits that those co-ops once brought.
In this recessionary climate, it is timely indeed to look at the co-op model once more. In
Argentina, a country that suffered a huge financial crisis in 2001 with devaluation of its currency
and widespread unemployment, there are currently 12,670 co-operative societies with over
9.3million members (around 23% of the population). Since the Argentine crisis, over 200 failing
businesses have been rescued by their workers and reopened as worker co-operatives; none of
these has gone out of business and they employ over 15,000 people.
Co-ops as an option for struggling businesses
The growing dependence on large foreign organisations for employment has been negative for
indigenous growth. These organisations have at times brought huge employment and great
affluence to communities but the lack of local tradition and the lack of employee ownership has
seen many of these companies pull out when it suits – and more and more have done so as the
crisis deepened. In addition, many home-grown companies have been allowed to go to the wall
and their workers to the dole because nobody had the imagination to step in and save the
company or use the workers’ expertise. If the Government and state agencies had acted quickly,
the workers left behind by these industries could have been supported to form co-ops to take over
where the company had left off. This was something both Waterford Crystal and SR Technics
workers pleaded with the Government for at the time of their redundancies. Workers in Dell could
have been assisted to band together and attain office space/capital allowances/licensing rights to
develop their own initiatives based on the work they had been trained to do.
A successful example of a business that transitioned into a worker co-op in Ireland is Heron
Quality Food in West Cork, a specialist bakery that is Ireland’s largest supplier of gluten-free bread
and which exports worldwide, as well as supplying leading retailers. One of the most innovative
things about Heron was its conversion to a co-operative: the owners wanted to retire but wanted to
ensure the future of the bakery and the jobs of the workforce. Out of this developed a plan where
the company was split into two companies, with the assets held in one company owned and