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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Colm Brophy TD
Climate Change

Government TD accuses RTÉ of wanting to 'close down' Ireland's beef industry

Claire Byrne said that the statement was not true, and unfair.

A FINE GAEL TD who appeared on an RTÉ radio show today accused the national broadcaster of having a bias against the beef exports industry in Ireland via its coverage of the issue, leading to another guest accusing him of being a climate change denier, which he roundly denied. 

Colm Brophy TD, appeared on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One earlier today to talk about Ireland’s efforts to combat climate change, and to reach its net zero targets, while the Government is also pursuing policies including boosting the country’s aviation sector and beef exports around the world. 

Tánaiste Michéal Martin has flown to China to represent Ireland’s beef industry there, after a recent trip by several ministers to South Korea to also boost beef exports, which was widely covered by media. 

The Dublin South-West TD was defending the Government’s policies on meeting net zero targets, and promoting the beef industry when Byrne told him: “It feels like you’re saying we’ll let the Greens get on with net zero, but we’ll drive on with getting more passengers into Dublin Airport and getting more beef sold around the world.”

“There is a balance,” Brophy said in reply, “Aviation has to recognise that it has to do more to contribute towards emission reduction,” he added. 

Brophy went on to say that some Irish airlines are willing to participate “fully in that”, but that the Government also must recognise that “we have to live in a real world, where people want to use airplanes.

He also pointed out that Ireland is a “small island nation”, which Byrne insisted is a “hackneyed argument” which implies: “Why would we be addressing our emissions when they’re pumping them out in China”. 

Brophy then said: “Be honest, I know RTÉ has been advocating for shutting down Irish farmers and closing down Irish beef”. 

Byrne – who was audibly outraged by the comment – said: “I’m not letting that go. That is not true, and that is not fair”. 

“It is important to recognise when somebody says – and I firmly believe that we need to reduce our emissions and do so in a controlled way, and also have a trade policy – that it is not fair to say, well, that’s a hackneyed argument,” Brophy insisted. 

Byrne asked Brophy if he would be “happy to retract what you said about RTÉ”, to which Brophy said he would be, if RTÉ also acknowledged that it is not fair to say “it is hackneyed” to “want a balance”. 

Later in the programme she said that RTÉ has an obligation to report “impartially” which it takes seriously, and stated that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is a growing problem which requires “radical action”. 

Brophy said that it would be unfair for Irish farmers and beef producers to be disproportionately impacted by the Government’s net zero commitments. 

Byrne said that this is not what is happening, and that in fact, the Government is trying to “increase our sales of beef”. Brophy then insisted we are trying to achieve boosted beef sales “in the most environmentally friendly way”. 

Brophy said that if Ireland was not exporting beef at the level it currently is, the demand would still be there for the product, and other countries would be producing it in a way that would cause greater harm to the environment.

He doubled down in saying that “you can be strong” on supporting Irish aviation, trade, tourism and the beef industry, while working towards “emissions reduction”. 

“You don’t have to be closing down those sectors or restricting them or killing them off,” Brophy added.  

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who also appeared as a guest on the show, said he was “outraged by the presentation that’s been given by a Government representative”. 

“I came into the studio pretty depressed about the week we’ve had. I thought that we would have some semblance of understanding and a collective agreement on the nature of climate breakdown. 

“What you’ve said is that the public broadcaster, the national public broadcaster, has a bias against the beef industry, that’s effectively what you’ve said. 

“You cannot, as a Government representative, go down to places like Cork and Waterford that are underwater and not join the dots and make a cogent argument about the fact that we’re in the middle of climate breakdown,” he added. 

When it was suggested to Brophy that what he had said on the programme amounted to the views of someone who is a “climate change denier”, he said that he found the suggestion “beyond offensive,” and denied it entirely. 

The Journal has contacted Brophy for clarification on his comments about RTÉ.

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