Irish politicians ‘speaking out of both sides of their mouths on nitrates derogation’, says Holly Cairns

Social Democrats leader says politicians are afraid of losing votes over climate issues

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns has said a lot of politicians are not honest with the public about climate issues because they are afraid of losing votes.

Ms Cairns criticised Opposition parties for not having a clear position on the nitrates derogation for Ireland and took aim at the Government for not preparing for the exemption being removed entirely.

The Cork South-West TD, who grew up on a small farm, also said she finds the approach to communicating with farmers “ridiculous and a little bit insulting”.

Asked why she thinks political parties might not be clear about the scale of change needed in terms of climate issues, Ms Cairns told the PA news agency: “I think [they’re] scared of losing the farming vote, and seeing everything in terms of election cycles.”


“I grew up on a small farm in West Cork, a small dairy farm. Lots of my friends, my neighbours are farming, and the presumption that we somehow don’t understand the science, care about the future of the sector for future generations and all that stuff, I just find for one ridiculous, and for two a little bit insulting.

“It’s this attitude that ‘Oh, to keep the farming vote, you kind of have to plamás them and tell them these things that aren’t reality’.”

Ms Cairns used the example of Ireland getting an exemption to use more organic nitrates per hectare than other EU countries for what she said was political dishonesty on farming.

Farmers in Ireland had an allowance of 250kg of nitrogen per hectare (N/ha), but this is reduced to 220kg N/ha from this month onwards, in an attempt to improve Ireland’s water quality. Most other countries’ limit is 170kg.

“Like this whole debate with the nitrates derogation, since I got elected I’ve been saying to the Government, why are you continuing to extend the nitrates derogation when you’re walking farmers to a cliff edge and eventually it’s going to have to go?

“We all know that, the farming community know that better than anyone.

“Why aren’t you starting to put measures in place to support people in the change to make it fair and reasonable? Instead, no, deny that it has to happen, deny that it’s going to happen, try and fudge the science around emissions and then boom, there we are. The derogation is introduced, farmers are at a cliff edge.

“I just think that doesn’t do anyone any favours.”

Ms Cairns said that decisions need to be made on climate issues.

“So we don’t see it as a ‘will we, won’t we?’, we see it as a must and how do we do it the right way, and I think it’s just unbelievable that isn’t the approach of every government at this point.

“Around the time (of the nitrates debate), there was no clear position from any of the other opposition parties on the derogation except ‘Oh, we think we should keep it but we also think that we should protect water quality’.

“That’s not a realistic position, that’s just speaking out of both sides of your mouth.” - PA