The Midlands North West constituency is, even by European standards, diverse and sprawling.

By Irish standards, it is quite simply the largest single constituency the country has ever seen.

Starting at Castledermot near the Carlow-Kildare border, it extends to Malin Head in Donegal. From east to west, it sweeps from Achill Island to Bettystown beach.

Farming questions put to the candidates

  • Voters must select five candidates from the 27 people who have put themselves forward. We asked the prominent farming contenders these questions on agriculture:
  • Are you in favour of 100% convergence of area-based payments to farmers?
  • What three things will you do for farmers if elected?
  • Are you in favour of retaining Ireland’s nitrates derogation?
  • What is your position on the Nature Restoration Law?
  • Do you intend to serve the full five-year term or would you seek to run in a general election? All bar Peadar Tóibín said they would serve the full term.
  • Who have you nominated as your first alternative should you need to vacate your seat?
  • Below are each candidate’s answers.

    Niall Blaney, Fianna Fáil

    Niall Blaney.
    “I will have farmers’ backs in Europe. I will seek to extend the nitrates derogation and be front and centre when it comes to the renegotiation of the CAP. Farmers are swamped by ‘red tape’ and I will work to cut farm bureaucracy. I will seek to be in every possible EU agriculture committee if elected. I’m absolutely in favour of 100% convergence, and will work to ensure they happen.

    “On the Nature Restoration Law, Ireland has enough State lands to reach the 20% limit. If passed at EU level, I will strive to ensure that farmers who wish to contribute more are heavily incentivised to do so. No ifs, no buts, I will be a full-time MEP. I am the only candidate in the constituency with hands-on farming experience.

    “Midlands North West hasn’t had an effective voice for our farmers and I intend to change that unsatisfactory situation. I don’t have the choosing of the three replacement nominees. That’s a decision for my party.”

    Nina Carberry, Fine Gael

    “My top three priorities will be to fight for a fair share of the EU’s budget for farmers, to push for a simplified system of inspections and payment schemes, and to vocally defend and advance Irish agricultural interests in trade negotiations.

    Nina Carberry.

    “The effects of convergence to date need to be examined, taking into account its impact on farm viability and its effectiveness in ensuring a fair distribution of CAP payments.

    “The nitrates derogation is an important contributor to sustainable grass-based production.

    “I am in favour of retaining it and further supporting farmers and other sectors to improve Ireland’s water quality.”

    Important lesson

    “The Nature Restoration Law is an important lesson on the need for an inclusive legislative process and to work with farmers in partnership rather than confrontation. The debate around the law has become extremely polarised and I support an approach that enhances farmers’ ongoing efforts in this area through voluntary, well-funded schemes. The first alternative would be Colm Markey, should Maria Walsh and I win two seats.”

    Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fáil

    “I will do everything in my power to retain the nitrates derogation and work to improve water quality so we can achieve this. I’ll work for a simplified CAP process, reducing the paperwork requirement and bureaucracy. I’ll prioritise food security, which should be at the heart of CAP. Current schemes are limiting and reducing food production, and we need to meet the food needs of an increasing population.

    Lisa Chambers.

    “I’m in favour of full convergence. I appreciate this isn’t what some farmers want but as someone living in Mayo, it’s what’s best for the small family farm model which my party supports. I’m in favour of retaining the derogation.

    “Recently, we adopted Nature Restoration Law proposals coming from the EU, based on information presented to us at the time about the amount of emissions coming from peatlands. The EPA recently issued a report with very significant revisions as to the carbon emissions from peatland. It transpires that previous estimations were overestimated by over 60%. In light of this, I think that Ireland has to review its position and update same, based on this new information and data. This matter is currently being reviewed by the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. My party will designate the alternatives list.”

    Barry Cowen, Fianna Fáil

    “Reduce red tape and bureaucracy – when the last CAP was agreed, there was a commitment to achieve this, that appears to have been forgotten. I will put this back on the agenda and deliver it, once and for all.

    “Environmental schemes should reward farmers for delivery, moving away from the income foregone and cost-incurred metric to a reward-based scheme that will reward farmers with payments for delivery. Championing policies that support farm productivity, efficiency and growth.

    Barry Cowen.

    “The decision on convergence was made by Simon Coveney in previous CAPs. We are on a pathway to that. I will champion policy that will bridge the income gap for farmers who have been negatively impacted. I’m in favour of retaining the nitrates derogation, which recognises Ireland’s unique production system. Removing it would create instability in the land market which would negatively impact the tillage and livestock sectors. I was instrumental in tailoring the Nature Restoration Law from its original imperialistic form to one now which appreciates the State’s commitment vis-à-vis Bord na Móna and Coillte.

    “Participation will be voluntary with costs of scheme being met by the Climate Fund, separate and distinct from CAP. Those who opt out will retain their single farm payment. Niall Blaney will be my alternative.”

    Luke Ming Flanagan, Independent*

    Luke Ming Flanagan.
    “I am in favour of full flattening of payments, and pushed for them in the last CAP reform. I would also front-load the first 30 hectares. I will fight to bring the CAP budget to where it was in real terms in 2001. That would mean a flat payment of €500/ha; higher if we increase front loading. There needs to be a third pillar in the CAP for environmental payments.

    “There are only 226 out of 30,000 farmers in Connacht in derogation. I think we need to keep the 220kg [N/ha] level because farmers have invested. I’ll be using my political capital to make sure that farmers in the west of Ireland get the same payment per hectare as they do in Munster.

    “I voted against the Nature Restoration Law in parliament. We will need funding for nature restoration. We need to be realistic, if we’re going to look for more money we get it from the national exchequer.”

    *Speaking at the Claremorris IFA hustings.

    Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Féin

    “I will be a strong voice in advocating for a CAP that is fair to farmers, is less complex and bureaucratic, and addresses unfair trading practices.

    “I will oppose EU trade deals that aren’t in Irish farmers’ interests, and that will have a negative impact on the wider agricultural industry, and work to promote and protect Irish family farms and ensure their viability into the future.

    Michelle Gildernew.

    “I am opposed to Mercosur.

    “I support full convergence. I want to see payments addressed as a matter of urgency, and front-loaded so the benefit is felt as quickly as possible. As a former Agriculture Minister in Stormont I understand the importance of retaining the derogation. Sinn Féin supports its retention in full. The review mechanism as it stands isn’t fit for purpose. We need a more effective mechanism that strikes a balance for all concerned.

    “Sinn Féin weren’t in a position to support the final version of Nature Restoration Law due to a lack of a commitment to long-term funding, as well as lack of compensation for those negatively impacted by some of the measures around restoration activities.

    “While we had some success with amendments on socio-economic impact assessments and voluntary rewetting; the fact remains that the law as it stands vilifies small family farmers. Chris McManus will be my first alternative.”

    Chris MacManus, Sinn Féin

    “As a Sinn Féin member of the EU agriculture committee, I will continue my work to promote and safeguard the future of the family farm in Ireland. I will oppose dangerous EU trade deals such as EU-Mercosur, which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s groups support.

    “I will continue to fight for a fairer, more simplified CAP, with an increased budget to address unfair trading practices.

    Chris MacManus.

    “Sinn Féin is in favour of 100% convergence and wants to see payments front-loaded. We fully support the retention of the nitrates derogation in full whereby it can be shown that water quality can be maintained or improved as necessary.

    “We have repeatedly pointed out that the review mechanism agreed to by Minister McConalogue is flawed and a more accurate and effective mechanism that can serve both farmers and the environment should be found.

    “While Sinn Féin was happy to see its efforts to have rewetting as explicitly voluntary, and its amendment on a socio-economic impact assessment passed in July 2023, we nonetheless opposed the final version in February this year due to the absence of dedicated long-term funding and the deletion of the reference to compensation measures for family farmers who might be adversely affected by restoration activities.

    “Sinn Féin also did not support the fact that many small family farmers already implementing conservation and restoration measures in Natura 2000 areas, were being scapegoated under this legislation compared to the biggest polluters and environmental culprits. My first alternate is Michelle Gildernew.”

    Saoirse McHugh, Independent

    “Farms cannot be run on a year-by-year basis. I will be honest about the challenges ahead and ensure that we can genuinely look five, 10 or 20 years into the future, anticipate the challenges, and tackle them fairly and in a planned way. I will push for the creation of an EU-wide land observatory.

    Saoirse McHugh.

    “Land is and will be coming under increasing pressure over the next few years, from dairy, from renewables, space for nature, from ADs, from phoney carbon credit schemes, and from horse racing empires, etc. I will fight for the creation of a common food policy.

    “I am in favour of 100% convergence of area-based payments. The nitrates derogation isn’t a yes-no answer.

    “If water quality can be improved and maintained I would support the derogation.

    “I think everybody would agree that keeping our rivers and lakes in good condition is of utmost importance. I think the Nature Restoration Law is a massive opportunity for Ireland. Pending on how the Government designs it, it is an opportunity to diversify farm incomes, reduce flooding, improve air quality in cities and towns, boost local economies with the creation of jobs, and revive coastal areas.


    “I think the disinformation campaign around it was a disgrace and served nobody. My alternates are farmers Fergal Anderson, from Loughrea and then Eddie Mitchell, from Manorhamilton.”

    Ciaran Mullooly, Independent Ireland

    “I will ensure greater scrutiny of EU laws affecting Irish farmers. I’ll work to restore the CAP budget to its pre-2020 level and safeguard basic payments from environmental measure impacts. I’ll advocate for adjustments where regulations adversely affect farmers. Yes, I support 100% convergence, but acknowledge that some unintended impacts on farmers may need examination and farmers need to be protected insofar as is possible.

    Ciaran Mullooly.

    “I support the retention of the nitrates derogation, recognising Ireland’s unique position for a just transition under new regulations. I oppose the introduction of the Nature Restoration Law, and will lobby at the European Parliament to ensure all future EU laws are favourable to Irish farmers. My alternates are Michael Fitzmaurice and Pat O’Rourke.”

    Peadar Tóibín, Aontú

    “Aontú supports convergence to deliver improved payments for the majority of farmers. However, it’s a blunt instrument and some sectors will be negatively affected. To ameliorate this, we seek a reform of food markets to end the dominant positions of factories and supermarkets, ensuring a fairer share of the profits from food go to farmers.

    Aontú leader Peadar Tóibin.

    “Aontú supports the retention of the nitrates derogation. Its removal will hit productivity and force some farmers to take more land to retain production levels. This would hit viability and lead to a surge in demand for land.

    “The Nature Restoration Law could be a significant threat to many farmers. There’s a lack of detail as to how this will be implemented, what impact it will have on farmers and what supports will exist. Farmers are already overburdened with regulation and increased costs.

    “The income of farmers seems to be of secondary concern in terms of the Government’s approach to the land.

    “I have stated up front that I will stand in the next general election. I am standing in this election to crowbar these real bread and butter issues into the election debate. Cllr Emer Tóibín and Patrick Murphy are part of my replacement list.”

    Maria Walsh, Fine Gael

    “I aim to ensure farm families from the west of Ireland are protected in the upcoming CAP negotiations, in particular suckler and sheep.

    “I’ll lobby for ringfenced funding for the Land Mobility Service to assist farmers to access land to grow their farm enterprises and improve succession planning.

    Maria Walsh.

    “I’ll work to increase supports for female farmers; we must build on the 60% TAMS grant to encourage more women into agricultural careers.

    “I am in favour of a convergence rate that delivers a fairer system for payments. The 100% convergence needs to be directed towards the lands and areas of our farming communities that would benefit from it most and need it urgently. I’m in favour of retaining the nitrates derogation. I voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law in the European Parliament last February – we cannot ignore that we must take action to tackle biodiversity loss.

    “It is up to the Government to lead on restoration measures, Fine Gael MEPs ensured that restoration measures will be voluntary for farmers, with no impact on their eligibility for CAP payments. No farmer will be forced to hand over any land under the requirements of this legislation. Current MEP Colm Markey is my alternate.”

    James Reynolds, The National Party

    Reynolds told farmers at the IFA’s hustings in Claremorris that he would bring a “radical perspective” to Europe.

    “I’m the only full-time farmer on the ballot paper. I’m a suckler and sheep farmer from Co Longford. I know the challenges that farmers face. I’m standing on a radical platform.

    James Reynolds.

    “If I am elected as an MEP I will be aligning with a group that I expect [to have a] huge surge in right wing MEPs from across Europe. As part of that group I want to be nominated onto the agriculture committee. I want to repeal and rescind the nitrates directive and EU Nature Restoration Law.”

    He said that the CAP budget has effectively been frozen in time for 20 years.

    “We’ve had massive inflation, a cost of living crisis and a cost of production crisis for farmers,” he said and proposed a doubling of the CAP budget. He said 50% of the current CAP budget had been “hijacked by the environmental lobby” for the “insane green agenda”.

    Other candidates

    Other candidates running in the Midlands North West constituency include Justin Barrett (National Party), Anthony Cahill (The Irish People) Peter Casey (Independent), Stephen Garland (Independent), Rory Hearne (Social Democrats), Charlotte Keenan, (Independent) Hermann Kelly (Irish Freedom), Fergal Landy (Labour), Margaret Maguire (Ireland First) Brian O’Boyle (PBP-Solidarity), Pauline O’Reilly (Greens), Daniel Pocock (Independent), Michelle Smith (Independent), Gerry Waters (Independent), and John Waters (Independent).