Whats the future for food in Ireland?

Whats the future for food in Ireland?


Demand for food and drink has changed and consumers now wish for their food to be produced in a sustainable environment. For many the primary consideration is addressing climate change; for others it is about water sustainability; for many more it is about economic sustainability. The only difference is the priority that consumers place on these differing aspects of sustainability.


The issue of sustainability and increasing environmental costs has the potential to undermine the growth potential of the Irish Food and Drink Industry. For the food processing sector, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) stands as a clear example of how measures can rapidly become significant costs on operations and the wider part of sustainability however needs to be addressed. The burning of fossil fuels in processing, refrigeration and transport are primary emitters of CO2. Emission sources from primary agriculture include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).


Irish agriculture is now challenged with a legal obligation to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by 20% by 2020. The primary objective for Irelands Agri-Food Industry must be how to turn this challenge into opportunity by implementing greater efficiencies leading to cost reductions, while enabling sustainable production growth.

Future in Food Ireland will address these issues to ensure that the Irish food industry will become the global source of high quality sustainable food and drink.


Photo Credit: Box Media.

Whats the big idea?: distributing our wealth.

Whats the big idea?: distributing our wealth.

Usually, when we put money into a Trocaire box or attend a charity fundraiser,  we feel justified in saying that was a ‘good’ action but should we be doing more than this? The philosopher Peter Singer argues that we should be far more efficient in how we give to charity in broadly two ways: 1) that we should give far more of our wealth to the world’s poorest people, and 2) that we should prioritise reason over emotion when we are giving to charity. As citizens of a relatively wealthy country, this controversial idea has consequences for us all on a daily basis.

Singer’s principle of duty is that if we have the power to “prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought, morally, to do it”.  Singer claims that we have a duty to sacrifice our comparative privilege to alleviate the poverty of others. This results in having a duty to contribute to famine relief, etc. I.e. instead of being merely ‘uncharitable’, it would be immoral not to do so.

One major strength of this principle lies in the fact that the reason for wealth distribution can be seen as entirely arbitrary. Imagine a man approaches my friend and I on the street and gives me five hundred euro, and takes all of my friend’s money. Can I claim to have any more right to the money than my friend? No- I did nothing to get this money. Thus it would be unjust of me to not compensate for the arbitrariness of the disparity in our wealth by equaling our shares. Considering this, Singer’s principle of duty appears a natural extension of my behaviour. All Singer is asking us to do is compensate for this fact on a global scale- if we don’t deserve wealth more than those in poverty, what right do we have to keep a disproportionate amount of that wealth from them?

Now one might object and say that we have earned our wealth through our own hard work and merit- that we do deserve our wealth and so no one else has a right to it. After all, if I have a job where I spend 8 hours a day working, it seems far-fetched to say that someone in Somalia has a right to that money. However, Singer would say this isn’t thinking critically enough about privilege. This can be illustrated very simply: just recall all the things you or your family own then think of things someone currently living in a refugee camp currently owns. Now, think of something you currently own, but they do not. Here’s an easy one: a permanent residence. When we think critically about global wealth distribution, Singer’s principle seems to overcome the objection that people in developed countries earn their money and therefore are fully entitled to it. In other words: I played no role whatsoever in establishing the social, political, and economic context of Ireland that enabled consequent opportunities for me to earn money (just the same as the Somali refugee played no role in the context they were born into).

A more successful, and welcome, criticism of Singer’s principle is to do with how it should be applied. Leif Wenar argues that Singer’s argument risks oversimplifying humanitarianism. Wenar criticises Singer for not being clear enough about how difficult giving aid responsibly can be. We need to be highly sensitive not only about what causes we are giving aid to, but how we are giving that aid. To achieve this, Wenar says we need to account for complexities like the comparative efficacy of aid agencies, inadvertent harm caused by giving aid, and transparency of aid agencies.

The main conclusion to take from Singer’s argument, I believe, is that charity is not as straightforward as giving money to a cause you feel deserves it. Rather, the importance of giving away our wealth should spawn from serious self-criticism of our own privileges. Hence, there is a strong argument to donate much more of our wealth than we currently do, and be more rigorous about which causes we donate our wealth to.


Photo credit: By Mal Vickers – Flickr

Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

What? The MS Readathon takes place annually, with more than 10,000 young readers in schools around the country taking part last year, reading 87,000 books in total and raising funds for people with Multiple Sclerosis in their community.

Who? MS Ireland is the national organisation providing information, vital services and support to the MS community. Multiple Sclerosis, meaning ‘many scars’, is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Ireland. MS affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. There is currently no known cause or cure for the condition.

When and Where? The Readathon takes place from October 13th to November 13th 2017. Please visit www.msreadathon.ie to find out more. You can register as a school, class or individual.

Why? Funds raised by young readers around the country directly support vital services, for example the MS Ireland Information Line, enabling one-to-one support for those newly diagnosed, physiotherapy and exercise classes to help people with MS remain independent, and respite care. More than two-thirds of the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland access these resources.

How? Young readers can get their reading lists ready by checking the 2017 lists on www.msreadathon.ie featuring great books for kids from the new to the classics. To get involved with the 30th MS Readathon 2017, visit the websiteFor more information on MS and MS Ireland, visit www.ms-society.ie.


At the launch this year, Felicity Dahl marked the milestone for the sponsored reading initiative, along with official proud sponsors, Heinz. Felicity’s late husband, Roald Dahl launched the first ever MS Readathon in 1988, beginning three decades of adventures in reading.” Over the past 30 years, MS Readathon has encouraged children all across Ireland to make friends with books and the reading habit whilst raising funds for a highly worthwhile cause.”

Cecelia Ahern, author, also praised the initiative: “MS Readathon has been so influential in encouraging children to read over the past thirty years. Reading is so important because it broadens our imaginations, and imagination is so important because it give us the opportunity to envision new possibilities, charges our creativity, and enhances our life. ”


Abortion rights activist Goretti Horgan shares her dream dinner party guests to set the world to rights

Abortion rights activist Goretti Horgan shares her dream dinner party guests to set the world to rights

Cork native Goretti Horgan is a lecturer in social policy at Ulster University and a child poverty and abortion rights activist. She carries out extensive research to publish studies and reports on both these subjects in partnership with NGOs. Goretti tells us the five dinner guests that she would invite to help her put the world to rights.  

Kate Tempest – because her poetry really ‘gets’ how growing up in poverty in a society where there is also huge wealth. This poem about the “Cannibal Kids” who rioted in East London in 2011 is a great example: Check it out here.

Katha Pollitt, American feminist and author of the book Pro which argues that abortion should be seen as a “social good”, as opposed to something women should be ashamed of – surely it’s good for society that no woman is forced to give birth and that every child is a wanted child?

Fiona Ferguson, a young activist from Belfast who has the confidence to go on the BBC and stand up for radical and pro-choice politics….at her age, there is no way I’d have had that nerve!

Brid Smith, People Before Profit TD who held up a packet of abortion pills in the Dáil and told women where to get them. The feminist websites that supply pills to women in Ireland tell me that her action gave this information to many women for the first time.

Eamonn McCann who has been an activist for civil and women’s rights for over 50 years and my partner since 1984; he inspires me every day to keep on keeping on to “put the world to rights”.


Pictured above: Goretti speaking at the March for Choice in Dublin in Sept 2016

Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

As our 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth, Women for Refugee Women write for us about the work that they do to help refugee women rebuild their lives. 

Women for Refugee Women works in the belief that every woman who crosses borders in search of safety deserves a fair hearing and a chance to rebuild her life. Each week, over 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women come to us for English lessons, therapeutic activities such as drama and yoga, advice and nutritious lunches.

The women involved say:

“Women for Refugee Women helps me to understand my potential; who I am, what I can accomplish. They allow me to be in my element with people around me who are likeminded.”

Coming here makes me feel empowered. Before I was in darkness. Now I have learnt so much. Women for Refugee Women is like family to me. Here we can get ideas from each other about how to improve our situations.”

The asylum system in the UK is set up in a way that means many vulnerable women are detained in immigration detention centres like Yarl’s Wood or end up living destitute. Women seeking safety are dehumanised: disbelieved, locked up, plunged into poverty and isolated. Our #SetHerFree campaign calls for an end to the routine use of indefinite detention, which is deeply traumatic and distressing.

We enable asylum-seeking women, who are so often unseen and unheard, to build their confidence and communication skills in order to tell their own stories. They have used their voices to inform a range of audiences, including urging policy makers to build a fairer asylum system.

We’ve had some major breakthroughs, for example there is now a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women. But detention is still a routine administrative process in this country and we need your support to change this!

You can help by:

  • Giving or fundraising – we rely on the generous donations of our supporters to run these activities for refugee women. Please donate here or contact admin@refugeewomen.co.uk if you’d like to take part in a sponsored challenge for us!
  • Spreading the word:  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to share refugee and asylum-seeking women’s stories, or why not host an event? We can provide flyers, films and even speakers.
  • Volunteer: We are often looking for people to help out with our English lessons, social media or on creative projects.
  • Stay in touch: Sign up to our mailing list here.

The 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth. Check out their Facebook event page here for more information about what’s on this week.