[Sinn Fein]

19 September 2002

Ferris slams cynical use of EU grants

The Sinn Fein spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has condemned as utterly cynical the attempt by the Government to use EU grants to bribe farmers into voting yes in the forthcoming referendum on Nice.

Deputy Ferris was reacting to reports that Minister for Agriculture and Food Joe Walsh has told Fianna Fáil TDs to use the EU's decision to allow early payments as part of their campaign.

``The decision to use people's entitlements in order to induce them to vote in a particular manner must be deplored. The case for speeding up payments in order to alleviate some of the hardship caused by this year's bad weather is clear. That has been made by the farming organisations, and has been sought from the Department by myself and my party colleague Caoimhghín O Caolain.

``It is clear that the attempt to link the payments to the referendum is a reflection of increased Government concern over how farmers will vote. Only today a poll shows that a growing number will oppose the Treaty, and that a similar number have not yet made up their minds. It is also apparent from the poll that farmers share similar concerns to the rest of the community and are not simply a group that can be bought off. I am confident that farmers will judge the issues on their merits and will not be influenced by the Government's manipulation of the grants.'`

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