PROTECTING THE FARMING SECTOR

13 September 2013 No Comments by The Northern Standard

There is an emerging awareness that, although the immediate crisis posed by the adverse impact which bad weather delivered on fodder supplies for farmers has now passed, the effects of that crisis could, like an earthquake, deliver damaging aftershocks for some time to come.

Whether that awareness is being matched by sufficient preparatory and safeguarding action is a question deserving of careful consideration by our farm organisations and State mechanisms as autumn and winter loom on the horizon.

Views expressed at the recent meeting of Monaghan Co Council communicated an unease among our public representatives at how the more long-term effects of the fodder crisis are being addressed.

Compassion and patent good sense motivated the proposal by Fine Gael councillor Aidan Murray that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney be asked to encourage financial institutions to ameliorate at least some of the anxiety faced by indebted farm families by offering them long-term loans rather than short-term overdrafts.

The coming into being of an insolvency service mechanism this week was an appropriate if long overdue response to the extent of the debt crisis in this country.

Its effectiveness will depend a great deal on the extent of co-operation it receives from the lending institutions, who must acknowledge that their own interests as well as those of insolvent borrowers are being served by the putting in place of debt rescheduling structures.

With positive engagement from both sides, the new service should assist some of the 100,000 or so Irish people burdened with loan difficulty at the present time in staving off the spectre of bankruptcy – a no-win outcome for creditors as well as debtors.

The application of the principles behind the new insolvency service would seem of particular import to farm families who have found themselves left in dire financial straits as a consequence of the fodder crisis.

Many will have borrowed considerably and negotiated credit arrangements with merchants and suppliers, and are facing into an uncertain winter with the ongoing commitments and pressures associated with keeping their holdings viable made more onerous by their existing indebtedness.
A vital keystone of the country’s economic foundations has been weakened by the fodder crisis – while the erosion itself may have abated, urgent repair of that keystone is necessary now, well before the risk of the process commencing again.

The new insolvency relief structures being put in place provide a window of opportunity for the problem of farm indebtedness to be addressed – but those structures themselves are probably insufficient to deliver the reassurance that the sector badly requires.

We hope the Minister will take heed of Colr Murray’s proposal – and use it as the springboard for negotiations with the financial institutions that will result in a package of measures specifically geared to the problems and pressures that have been created in the agricultural sphere.

Not only the material security of those engaged in farming at this difficult and uncertain time would be improved if Minister Coveney adopted such a pro-active approach – it would alleviate some of the immense emotional and psychological pressures many of those engaged in agricultural activity are struggling with at the present.

THE TRAP SHUTS!
The departure of international soccer manager Giovanni Trapattoni, announced yesterday, was inevitable after the disappointing results that bade adieu to the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of being part of the samba party at the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer.

Mr Trapattoni undoubtedly overstayed his welcome, and the fact that dispirited followers of the national soccer team will see him off with sighs of relief rather than tears lends a regrettable tarnish to the concluding pages of this chapter in the Italian’s distinguished managerial career.
A sophisticate of Serie A, ‘Trap’ made an unflattering but probably realistic assessment of our capacities as a soccer nation when he took the post – he surveyed the players at his disposal and decided to give them a rigid, simple playing system to follow, tapping their spirit to the maximum but discarding any component that didn’t fit snugly into the strategy.

The pragmatic philosophy took the team some length, to the cusp of qualification for the last World Cup and into the finals of the subsequent European Championship, but it was on the latter stage that its limitations were forensically exposed by Croatia, Spain and Italy.

It is puzzling that the Trapattoni era did not end then – the climate was right for the FAI to take the decision but they bottled it, and the necessary rebuilding and redirection of the national team has been retarded as a result.

Our national games will always define our national identity – but the national soccer team is an important projection of this country onto the international sporting stage.

The effect on our collective spirits of the Republic of Ireland’s exploits in the 1988 European Championships and the World Cups of 1990 and 1994 was extraordinary – we possess a proud soccer tradition and how the international team performs matters a great deal to many people.

The FAI, having made a bad error of judgement in not terminating the Trapattoni reign sooner, must now carefully consider the future direction of the national side.

But is it not time also for soccer at all levels in this country to conduct a fundamental review of the philosophies that underpin coaching from the youngest age upwards?

If we want football other than of the prosaic and antiquated variety to represent us on the international stage, that process must begin with the first messages imparted to young players when they come into acquaintance with the game.

And the soccer public too have some questions to answer, one of the most salient being whether we will ever have a strong League of Ireland – and therefore a strong nursery for future international players – if more devotion continues to be given to consuming televised English Premiership fare than to going to live games in our national league.

The demise of Monaghan United as a senior soccer entity showed that no matter how prudently administrated and well run a club is, it cannot survive without the punter’s patronage.

Replacing Giovanni Trapattoni will not guarantee a brighter future for the Irish soccer team – getting things right at grassroots level with the public’s active support rather than mere lip-service seems the only viable way of ensuring that we will once more see a return of the halcyon scenes generated during the Jack Charlton era.

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