Release Date: Wednesday, July 12th, 2023
Irish Government must negotiate for dedicated funds for farmers to make Nature Restoration a realistic possibility – MEP Maria Walsh
MEP Walsh will vote against the EPP Group in Parliament today, believing it vital that the text is kept alive to safeguard farming and rural communities across Ireland
IRELAND: MEP Maria Walsh will vote against her colleagues in the EPP Group later this morning, when the controversial Nature Restoration Law comes before the European Parliament. The Fine Gael MEP said she must vote with her conscience and cannot reject the proposals outright, believing it vital that the text is kept alive to protect the environment and biodiversity, while also safeguarding farming and rural communities. Like many others, Walsh does not agree with all aspects of the proposal, but she recognises that protecting biodiversity and ecosystems is crucial, as part of overall sustainability policies at EU level. Critically, she is also calling on the Irish Government to negotiate for dedicated funds for Irish farmers, in order to make nature restoration a realistic possibility.
“As an MEP, I have a responsibility to vote for the good of my constituency, while also being cognisant that this Law impacts constituency, country and continent. I will be voting, essentially, to keep the proposals alive, and this will see me go against the EPP Group. This whole process has been politically contentious from the outset and I abhor the ‘shaming’ and the ‘us vs them’ narrative presented by activists and indeed other MEPs. This is far too important to use the debate to score political points against each other,” she said.
Continuing, MEP Walsh criticised the decision taken by the EPP Group to remove the political group from negotiations. “As parliamentarians, our role is to negotiate, compromise and work for the best of our communities. Up until now, I have not had the opportunity to vote on the text but today, I will do so, alongside 704 other MEPs. My vote will be reflective of the need to protect our planet for food security, biodiversity and climate change, but not at the expense of our young farmers and our rural communities,” she stressed.
MEP Walsh has had many discussions with farmers in recent months on the Nature Restoration Law debate, and the conversations had been consistent – soil health, water quality on farms, and community growth is imperative. “This shouldn’t be an ‘us against them’ debate. I think both farmers and climate activists will agree that green initiatives require and deserve more funding, but equally, if we are going to implement a new legislation to restore biodiversity loss across the European Union, then we need to protect the livelihoods of those it affects the most,” reasoned MEP Walsh.
Highlighting her concerns with the text, however, the Fine Gael MEP said further clarity is needed on several points. “No clear legal framework has been outlined to date, and there is rooted confusion, and rightly so, from farmers on several of the lines in the text. Clarity is also required around the voluntary or involuntary rewetting of land, and funding is a major issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
“We keep moving the goalposts, especially for young farmers, and it is not good enough that our young EU farmers have not received a direct plan from the AGRI or ENVI Committees in the European Parliament, from the Irish Government, or from the Commission and Council. If the Nature Restoration Law is to succeed, then there’s no doubt that amendments are needed, but rejecting the text outright simply isn’t the answer,” she added.
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About Maria Walsh
Maria Walsh is an Irish MEP for the Midlands-North-West. She is a member of Fine Gael and her European Parliament is the EPP Group. Maria is a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), and the Delegation for Relations with the United States (D-US). She is also a substitute on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Her current work is focused on topics such as mental health, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, equality, protection of journalists, education and employment, amongst others.
Maria was born in Boston, USA, but the village of Shrule, Co Mayo has been her home since 1994. She graduated from Griffith College Dublin with a BA in Journalism and Visual Media in 2009 and went on to a career in television production and creative management, working in Dublin, New York and Philadelphia. Maria won the Rose of Tralee in 2014 as the Philadelphia Rose. In 2019, she was elected to the European Parliament.