Ireland set to profit from booming wool trade

Irish sheep farmers are being urged to capitalise on a growing international demand for wool products identified by an expert EU panel.

Irish sheep farmers are being urged to capitalise on a growing international demand for wool products identified by an expert EU panel.

The European Commission Advisory Group for Sheep and Goats says rising demand for wool from China and Russia, combined with exponential growth in trading prices, should see a dramatic upturn in the European wool market in the coming year.

Large textile buyers are increasingly turning to wool in response to consumer demand for sustainable and natural fibres. The price paid to Irish sheep farmers for wool has risen from about 45 cent per kilo in 2009 up to €1.25 this year.

Leinster MEP Liam Aylward, whose report on the future of the sheep and goat sector also pinpointed untapped potential in wool, said Irish farmers could benefit from a downturn in sheep production in the southern hemisphere.

“Farmers in Australia and New Zealand are down 35 million sheep so far this year. Australia has the lowest wool production in over a decade, which is creating a gap in the market that Irish sheep farmers could fill with high quality product,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP.

FIFA corruption is “tip of the iceberg”

The recent suspension of two senior FIFA members for alleged vote-selling should be the catalyst for major reform of football’s world governing body, an Irish MEP said this week.

Former GAA President and Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly said the corruption claims highlight deep-seated problems in FIFA’s governance, particularly as regards the role of president.

In a speech delivered at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Kelly questioned the reappointment of 75-year old Sepp Blatter as FIFA President for a fourth term, and called for a two-term limit to be imposed on the role in the future.

“99 per cent of football players are under 30 - there’s a huge age gap between the leader of the organisation and its sporting stars; we need to prevent the dominance of such an important global body by one individual and keep the role fresh,” he said.

Mr Kelly also criticised FIFA’s failure to introduce goal line technology, which would have exposed the infamous handball by France striker Thierry Henry against the Republic of Ireland during the 2009 World Cup qualifiers. “It illustrates FIFA’s unwillingness to encourage fair play,” he said, urging his EU colleagues to build up public pressure for the reform of FIFA among football supporters and players in their respective member states.

Truckers face tough new ‘green’ tax

An EU plan to charge road hauliers for pollution and noise has been approved by the European Parliament, despite strong opposition from Ireland and other peripheral member states.

Under the so-called “Eurovignette” rule which aims to divert haulage from road to rail, drivers of trucks of over 3.5 tonnes could be charged up to 4 cents extra per kilometre in a “road use” charge.

However there are fears the directive could impact badly on Irish hauliers, producers and on the export sector.

Figures from the Irish Exporters Association say a truck travelling from Ireland to mainland Europe via Holyhead and Dover would incur a round-trip fee of €300 if the law goes ahead.

And although Ireland has opted out of the directive so far, it would still prove costly for us to transport goods to other member states where the rule is implemented.

Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward, who voted against the move, criticised the EU authorities for failing to consider the specific needs of peripheral countries like Ireland who rely heavily on road transport.

“Export-led growth is the key to economic recovery in Ireland, and the ill-timed extension of this directive could damage Irish exporting and haulage firms, potentially driving smaller companies out of business,” he said.

Irish-trained doctors face death sentence for doing their job

Europe’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton has been urged to intervene to protect a number of  doctors educated in Ireland who are currently facing death sentences in Bahrain.

The Irish-trained doctors and nurses are among 47 medics due to be tried before Bahrain’s military court on charges of seeking to overthrow the monarchy, after they treated pro-democracy protestors during the nation’s recent uprising.

Human rights groups including Amnesty Ireland and Medecins Sans Frontieres claim the arrests are part of a “campaign of intimidation” in clear breach of the Geneva Convention, which guarantees medical care to all victims of conflict.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Irish MEPs have expressed extreme concern for the safety of those arrested, particularly in light of reported torture and inhumane treatment of the medics.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin said she has been told of doctors being severely beaten and denied access to their families or lawyers.

The Independent MEP, who has written to the EU’s High Representative on the issue, said the imprisonment of doctors for simply doing their job was “totally unacceptable”.

“I’m calling publicly on Catherine Ashton to intervene on behalf of these medics,” she said.