Dáil Éireann - Volume 580 - 18 February, 2004
Other Questions. - Gender Equality.
Mr. Stagg Mr. Stagg
96. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to establish a dedicated women in agriculture unit in his  Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4944/04]
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: In 1999 I established an advisory committee to advise on the role of women in agriculture and rural communities. The advisory committee's report, published in September 2000, contained 36 recommendations covering a broad range of policy and operational areas. While recognising the contribution of women to agriculture, it is clear from an analysis of the recommendations that the advisory committee's central concerns were issues affecting women in rural communities more generally.
Some of the recommendations of the report were overtaken by a range of developments, including the establishment of the national rural development forum which meets in open session twice a year and provides a forum for continued attention to many of the issues raised in the report. It should also be noted that, subsequent to the publication of the report, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs was established. Notwithstanding the change in remit of my Department, the advisory committee's recommendations have been pursued by my Department and a comprehensive progress report on the recommendations relevant to Departments and agencies has been finalised. This provides ample evidence that the recommendations have been fully taken into account by all the relevant Departments and agencies.
In leading the development of agriculture my objectives include the retention of the maximum number of farm families and ensuring that farming is an attractive career option for young people generally. Policies pursued by my Department are geared towards achieving these objectives. The schemes operated by my Department do not discriminate on grounds of gender. I also note that farm and community organisations have been provided with more than €500,00 under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 to promote female participation and representation. I am disappointed that there has as yet been no nomination of women by any of the farm organisations for appointment to the boards of statutory bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. Taking these factors together I am not convinced that the establishment of a dedicated unit dealing exclusively with the role of women in agriculture is necessary.
Dr. Upton Dr. Upton
Dr. Upton: I understand what the Minister is saying about the spread of responsibilities. However, one of the difficulties is that there is no fixed unit within the Department of Agriculture and Food to address issues of women in farming. On the matter of gender balance, I remind the Minister of what was said in a recent publication of the Department. There is example after example of references to the farmer and “his” land, “his” pension, and “his” rights and a description of how the farmer leaves the land to “his son”. This does not imply much progress in terms of gender balance. We should recognise that women have an important role.
However, other substantial issues need to be addressed. There is the matter of access to herd numbers. The Department recommended the formation of partnerships, but setting up or establishing a partnership in farming in rural Ireland can often be difficult. Does the Minister think some incentives should be put in place to help promote this?
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: I accept the Deputy's points. I would like to see the improvement of all the Departments' regulations and schemes so that we do not see this type of terminology. In particular, we should avoid derogatory terminology such as “adult dependant” when referring to a real person in a family.
There are examples of where partnerships and joint ownership can be promoted in farming. I will investigate to what extent this can be done. I know, for example, that in recent years farmers have been obliged to make revenue and social insurance payments, which is a good thing. They are entitled to a contributory pension as a result. However, this contribution system is for the head of the household. The unfortunate woman of the house is regarded as an adult dependant when it comes to her pension and must make do with a non-contributory pension. This problem could be alleviated by joint ownership. Throughout the legal system provision should be made for partnerships, joint ownership, joint herd numbers and so on to ensure there is equal treatment for husbands and wives in rural areas. The current system can lead to humiliation, especially in published literature. It also results in unfairness in social welfare schemes. I will take the Deputy's points into account.
Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.
Dáil Éireann 580 Other Questions. Gender Equality.