June Blog- Ballyhaise Agricultural College Graduation

Last week I had the honour of giving a speech at the Ballyhaise Agricultural College Graduation and I got the chance to see the wonderful new facilities that the College have in place.

Over the last two years there has been major investment in the facility at Ballyhaise. Security gates and CCTV to farmyard and roadside fields was installed, Forestry Training Equipment(Timber Trailer) and a new Digger was purchased and Roof Repairs to Ballyhaise House and Road works were carried out. Last year, approximately €0.5 million was spent on a reconstruction of old stone barn and rear courtyard to the classroom, student common room, library, computer training room.

It was a very special moment for 200 Graduates and their friends and family and I was priveleged to be a part of that.

Graduation Speech
At the outset I would want to pay tribute to your Principal Felix Mc Cabe who is retiring. He has had an outstanding career as a teacher, an advisor, and as your Principal for the last sixteen years, he is the longest serving Principal to date. Mr McCabe previously worked as a Dairy teacher in Athenry Agricultural College and left that position in the 1990s to work as a Specialist Dairy Advisor in the Northern region. He built a tremendous reputation as an advisor and was involved in major developments on many farms. To this day many of the top dairy farmers in the region would credit his involvement in their progress. Felix was a very good resource person for the local advisors and wrote a weekly article in the Irish Independent, which was credited and characterised for its simplicity whilst still being able to retain technical accuracy.

Felix is credited with the modernisation of many dairy farms while maintaining the ability to relate to the very small or most traditional farmers. As your Principal he has overseen major refurbishment and development of the College. He has established links with Dundalk Institute Of Technology facilitating continuing to Certificate, Diploma ,and Degree Level. Felix can be so proud of the current enrolment of four hundred students.

I am very happy that you are honoured with the presence of Professor Gerry Boyle Director Of Teagasc a College friend of mine who has rationalised and modernised Teagasc, is an acclaimed Economist and a distinguished Academic with many publications to his name. The Farm Organisations are represented here by Jim O Rourke and John Cooney and we have a number of Public Representatives Past and present, led by Councillor Paddy O’Reilly, Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council.

Our first congratulations should go to you the graduates. For you today is the culmination of a year of hard work and commitment. Parents and family who are here can also be proud of the outcome from the support they have given you. You are qualifying in a sector that remains the backbone of our economy. After the artificial boom in Construction that was almost a Ponzi Scheme we are all looking in a renewed way to Agriculture for Economic Recovery. Your sector contributes €24 billion, per annum, to the economy. 30% of net earnings abroad come from your Sector. You represent an increasing and core element of our exports with very high, real earnings.

We have 272,016 farmers in Ireland, with average holdings of 32 hectares. Our entire rural economy, which includes all the towns in Cavan are highly dependent on you. It is estimate that the world population will double by 2050, creating accelerated demand for your produce. In that context our Government are committed to the objectives of Harvest 2020, its 127 recommendations and the more than doubling of Agricultural output.

I can assure you that Minister Coveney, as President of the Council of Agricultural Ministers, is working around the clock to maintain the link between production and direct payments in the CAP negotiations. He is doing this while working for necessary re-distribution and equity. His success to date on CAP can only give you confidence in your Sector and its priority at Government Level. He will go on working for a favourable outcome.

You can be very happy about the fact that your FETAC Awards have National and International recognition and accreditation. You can progress under the HETAC system to third level degrees in Dundalk Institute. I would encourage you to so do. There is nothing to prevent anyone in this room progressing right through from Level 5 to a Phd in Agriculture, Given the value of your Capital Assets, the complexity and importance of your Sector and future possibilities, I would appeal to you to stay on the Educational ladder until you realise your full potential.

May I conclude by saying that you should enter the world with your heads up and your chests out in the realisation that you have a very bright future. May I wish you and your families every success and blessing in the future.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website