If opinion polls are to be believed, Liam Aylward (pictured) is one of the few positives which Fianna Fáil can take solace in ahead of Friday’s European election.
Mr Aylward, seeking a second term in Brussels, is now tipped to come second in the Ireland East poll behind Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness, reflecting the strength of the farmers’ vote in the constituency.
Perhaps with that in mind, the South Kilkenny political stalwart has pledged to maintain his strong support for farmers across Leinster if returned to Brussels and Strasbourg.
“If I am re-elected I will continue to fight for Leinster farmers in Europe,” he said on Tuesday.
“It is a critical time for Leinster farmers in Brussels. The budget for the CAP Health Check is coming under review.
“It sets out how money will be allocated to different sectors in agriculture. It includes measures relating to milk quotas, market supports, additional funding for farm payments, rural development and reducing bureaucracy.”
Mr Aylward, who put in a commendable performance during the European Election debate on last Thursday’s ‘Today with Pat Kenny’ broadcast on Radio One, says Ireland must remain “at the heart” of CAP discussions.
“We will continue to work hard to ensure that Ireland receives the same level of support in the next period of the CAP 2014-2021,” he continued.
Yet he warned: “We have to be realistic about these negotiations. Fianna Fáil has throughout the years built up strong political alliances in the agricultural sector in Europe.
“We have an excellent working relationship with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Marian Fischer Boel.
“My party is constantly engaging with the European institutions in an effort to reduce red tape from the administration of many CAP related initiatives. Unnecessary administrative burdens must be eliminated.
“We are able to influence the key decision makers to ensure that the interests of Irish farmers, their families, rural Ireland and the Irish food sector are fully protected.”
Whether Mr Aylward will be able to influence that at European level beyond June 5th is now up to voters to decide.