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“Farming, artisan food production and the production of energy crops and renewable energy are key drivers of future growth in the economic recovery in County Kilkenny,” said Green Party Borough and County Councillor Malcolm Noonan.
Cllr Noonan believes that Kilkenny is ideally positioned to benefit from the Green New Deal which is now gathering pace since being adopted as policy by the new US administration and here in Ireland.
‘Kilkenny is still a predominantly agricultural county with a vibrant dairy sector and a growing number of specialist food producers,” said Cllr Noonan. “We are fortunate to have some of the best growing conditions in the country where the possibilities for diversification are good.”
While much emphasis has been placed on industrial scale agri sector, Cllr Noonan believes that smaller scale, local food networks, local abattoirs, farm scale energy projects and a return to locally produced food for local shops and farmers markets will best serve farm families creating a sort of fair trade network in Ireland and reconnecting farmers with consumers.
He feels that industrial agriculture has historically failed farmers. Farm gate prices have remained static or even declined in the last twenty years, a period where large agri food corporations and large retail multiples have increased their profits and squeezed many farm families out of business.
‘A new farming model based on the Green New Deal could see significant growth in employment in agriculture and energy production. My colleague Eamon Ryan has recently announced a fixed feed in tariff for small scale renewable energy projects. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and small scale hydro projects could benefit from this scheme and provide much-needed rural employment. The new LEADER programme has the potential to create jobs in niche food markets and eco tourism. Farmers markets and direct supplying to local butchers and shops could give farmers a much better price for their product, but the regulatory system must support this’, said Cllr Noonan.
Cllr Noonan pointed to the role of Kilkenny Local Authorities, Kilkenny County Enterprise Board and the County Development Board in facilitating an environment where local food production and renewable energy projects could develop and flourish. Declaring the county as a GM (Genetic Modification)-Free Zone and focusing on Kilkenny as a single brand in terms of food output could be an important first step.
“We should market Kilkenny as a high quality food producer and a county open to business for renewable energy investors,” said Cllr Noonan. “There’s so much going on in the county. It just needs to be consolidated, marketed and developed and then the jobs will come’, he concluded.
Posted by on Monday, April 6, 2009 at 11:47 am
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The Decision announced today (Friday) by Diageo Ireland to cease brewing at St Francis Abbey Brewery after three hundred years of brewing on the famous site has shocked the people of Kilkenny. Speaking on the announced closure, Green Party Borough and County Councillor, Malcolm Noonan said that it was a sad day and a devastating blow for Kilkenny.
‘While the decision is not entirely surprising, given the current global challenges facing the industry and the company’s plans to consolidate it’s activities in Ireland, it is nonetheless a very difficult day for the 93 employees of the brewery and their families’ stated Cllr Noonan. ‘It is equally difficult for the people of Kilkenny to come to terms with the fact that in a few years time, a proud history of brewing will come to an end. St Francis Abbey Brewery is as intrinsic to Kilkenny as St James’s Gate Brewery is to Dublin, its cultural and social value to our City cannot be underestimated’.
‘It is now incumbent on all stakeholders, including public representatives from all parties to work together to deliver alternative employment opportunities for employees and to work with Diageo to develop a sustainable plan for the site that recognises the history and heritage of the area, while offering tourism potential to maintain the vibrancy of Kilkenny’s historic core’.
‘I would also like to see some element of brewing, perhaps a micro brewery and an interpretative centre based on the brewing tradition at St Francis Abbey Brewery to be developed in conjunction with Diageo. This would also have the potential to offer employment opportunites for some of the employees’.
Cllr Noonan concluded by calling on Junior Minister for Trade and Commerce, John McGuinness to engage with relevant State agencies with view to attracting sustainable enterprise and employment for Kilkenny, which has suffered from a lack of inward investment in recent decades, compared with other counties in the South East.
‘We have a five year run in time to come to terms with Diageo’s decision, we must use this time wisely for the betterment of the employees, their families and all the people of Kilkenny’ concluded Cllr Noonan.