FF TD defends coalition deal amid opposition from party’s farming sector

McConalogue says decision difficult after 100 years opposing Civil War enemy

Charlie McConalogue

Cultural differences were a significant part of the very difficult decision Fianna Fáil made to go into coalition with Fine Gael after a century opposing that party’s entitlement to lead government, according to agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

He defended the decision in the wake of opposition within the party’s farming sector to coalition with their Civil War enemy, particularly in Cavan and in parts of Limerick.

Mr McConalogue rejected suggestions that opposition to coalition with Fine Gael was more important to hardline Fianna Fáil members than forming a government.

Asked on RTÉ’s Countrywide programme if he was “holding your nose” as he tried to deliver the Donegal Fianna Fáil vote in favour of government formation, Mr McConalogue acknowledged that “cultural” difference was a significant part of it.


“It is a very difficult decision for our membership and we’ve spent the last 100 years in opposition to Fine Gael’s entitlement to lead government.”

Mr McConalogue deflected questions about Plan B and talking to Sinn Féin if the programme for government was rejected.

The Donegal TD said there “only two choices available, engaging with Fine Gael or with Sinn Féin” and now “we have to deal with the question in front of us”.

He added that “it doesn’t work all parties will have to consider where they’re at. No doubt we’ll be in a very difficult crisis for the country,” but he believed the programme for government would be accepted.

He said that party members had been reassured by the programme for government document and it had been broadly welcomed by all the farming organisations.


One of the negotiators on the farming section of the programme for government Mr McConalogue said one of the key elements for farmers is a pledge to create a national food ombudsman office.

That would bring transparency into the food supply chain in general but was specifically important for beef sector because “a big part of what has led to the beef protests we’ve seen in recent times is that lack of transparency in the sector”.

Another key plank in the programme is a new environmental scheme available to all farmers and it would be particularly important to beef farmers, he said. “It is very well funded and will create a new revenue stream to farmers’ incomes.”

The agriculture section of the programme has been described as one of the weakest, lacking a clear route for the agri-food sector to effectively reduce emissions in absolute terms.

Mr McConalogue said there would be a partnership approach acknowledging the importance of supporting farm incomes and of continuing being a world class producer of high quality food.

But he said it included “going the path of sustainability and of farmers leaning out in their role of contributing to climate change objectives and of reversing biodiversity decline.

“That’s why the environmental theme is so important and that really is going to be a key vehicle for driving that change and for rewarding farmers for contributing to that.”

Asked about his chances of becoming a minister in the new administration, Mr McConalogue said he would “love the opportunity” to have the agriculture portfolio but it would be a decision for party leader Micheál Martin.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times