The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is horrified at the intervention this week by the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, in the case being taken by An Taisce against a proposed cheese factory in Co. Kilkenny. The ungainly remarks have unleashed a cascade of bullying and abuse directed at the environmental NGO which is unacceptable. A thriving democracy depends upon a lively civil society, independent NGOs and access to the courts. Time and again these checks on the government’s freedom to act have proven invaluable to the common good. We want to express our solidarity with An Taisce in this attack on their integrity.
The IWT also wishes to acknowledge the fears and concerns of farmers as we finally begin to face up to our biodiversity and climate challenge. Farmers have responded to government policy over the last decade and it is these policies, which are at odds with meeting biodiversity and climate aims, which are at the heart of the current conflict in our view.
Specifically, it is the drive to expand and intensify production which has led us down this cul de sac. And yet, the draft agri-food Strategy 2030 envisages even more growth in production despite the flashing red lights coming from scientists in the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Pursuing this path will lead to greater societal conflicts and further environmental degradation, with taxpayers, communities and future generations left to pick up the tab.
The IWT believes that solutions are available. These include a radical transformation of food production to allow for agro-ecological techniques such as organic, high nature value, regenerative, agro-foresty and rewilding – all proven to restore nature and livelihoods.
However, those farmers that have pursued these techniques have done so despite the government’s best efforts, not because of them. A failure by the state to face up to our environmental obligations has led us to this point and only the state can lead us out of the mess we find ourselves in.