Since becoming MEP over a year ago I have taken the opportunity to attend Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) AGM. I found it to be very informative and afterwards availed of a briefing on our fishing industry, and subsequently visited two of AFBI sites – Hillsborough and Loughgall.

These encounters were extremely useful, especially now that I have taken on the role of Shadow Rapporteur for a legislative proposal set to harmonise rules intended to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the level of health risk in the industry, to humans and animals. It also covers any plans which may affect the Agri-food chain.

For many years the EU had separate regulations for plant health, plant reproductive material and animal by-products, but the proposed legislation intends to establish a unique set of rules applicable to official controls in all of these sectors.

During my visit to Hillsborough being briefed on the process involved in the anaerobic digester with its main fuel being manure provided by the farm animals on the site, I did not realise how valuable that information  would be to me in my role of Shadow Rapporteur in the European Parliament Committee.

I envisage that in the months ahead I will find myself working closer with AFBI Scientists tapping into their expertise and ensuring that the work that I do in Committee will be complimentary to what they and others do back home.

When I visited the Loughgall site I learned a lot about how significant horticulture is to our local economy and how crops like Willow are used in environmental processes such as clearing up waste water.

The horticultural industry makes a very significant contribution to our economy through direct employment and sales of its products and services, but also contributes immeasurably to increasingly important areas of public health and social wellbeing.

It is significant to note that this industry contributes to a farm gate output production of approximately £71.7m. The industry as a whole provides employment for over 6500 people in around 1500 businesses plus a further 1000 people working in local authority / public sector organisations. It also contributes up to £80m to the local economy per year through earnings by those in the Landscape and Amenity Services sector. Highly Significant!

The main horticultural crop in the North is mushrooms with a current annual value of approximately £30 million with 43 producers and 2 major producers’ organisations producing annually an estimated 22,000 tonnes of mushrooms.

AFBI provide a great service with its Central Laboratories Services Unit offering a rapid specialist analytical and diagnostic service to the horticultural industry which is most important given that the speed of response is critical to highly perishable crops such as mushrooms.

 

Given that AFBI has already established partners across Europe in places like Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Finland and Spain the organisation has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of EU Competitiveness Programmes which should assist them to tap into Horizon 2020 funding.

Research work at AFBI has resulted in securing funding from the R&D FP7 programme for solutions to the emerging disease threats from Trichoderma and Virus X in the mushroom industry and for Agroforestry systems. These are complex systems but provide high economic returns to producers while also providing important ecosystem services – attractive landscapes for recreational activity, water and soil and biodiversity conservation.

In addition AFBI also works with partners in Donegal, Monaghan and Sligo institute as well as NI Water on an Answer project – looking at environmentally sustainable solutions for dealing with organic waste and has thus secured INTERREG Funding.

The above is only a fraction of the valuable work AFBI do as its research is applied research and they have a number of world firsts – for instance in diagnosing the flu Pandemic in Pigs and the vaccine produced is the best seller in the world of animal vaccines.

I undertook to profile AFBI in Europe and to give the Representatives the necessary insight into the information needed for forthcoming funding programmes. That is ongoing and Commissioner Maire Geoghan Quinn was not only impressed by the scale of the work that the institute does but also acknowledged that it has as much to give Europe as it has to gain from the opportunities that AFBI can maximise in the EU


Martina Anderson MEP sends a mesage to the Basque prisoners

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson and Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA have co-hosted an Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) delegation visiting the European Parliament in Brussels.

Martina Anderson said:

“The programme of meetings with various officials from the Parliament and EU Commission was part of my commitment to “bringing the EU to the people and bringing people to EU”. The focus of the visit was particularly concerned with potential funding streams in the upcoming funding period of 2014-2020. Particularly relevant to the work AFBI are doing at home is the Horizon 2020 programme which is the funding mechanism for innovation.

“The six members of the AFBI delegation group met with officials from Director General (DG) Agriculture, DG for Maritime affairs, DG for Environment as well as with Ireland’s Commissioner for Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan Quinn.

“Those from the different departments that met with the AFBI group were impressed with the breadth of work the institute is doing around issues concerning Agriculture, plant and animal health, marine research, sea and inland fisheries, amongst others. They identified a number of funding objectives within the Horizon 2020 Programme that relate directly to AFBI’s work in research into sustainable agriculture, food security and bio-energy and recognised the potential for future funding that its work presents.

“The main objectives of AFBI’s visit were to raise awareness of the AFB Institute and their work, in the EU, and to learn more about upcoming EU funding for research and innovation. I think the visit certainly achieved these objectives. Having a discussion with the Commissioner for Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan Quinn was especially useful for understanding the potential funding and support that exists in Europe.”

Speaking at the Washington Ireland Programme (WIP) on Friday evening in Derry’s Magee University Great Hall on the issue of Ethnic Minorities in Ireland Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:

“Given that People from ethnic Minorities enrich our society, intellectually, culturally and economically it is important that we welcome them and appreciate the positive contribution that this diversity brings to our society.

“It is also important that we are aware of the difficulties that some encounter in settling into a new society. Unable to establish themselves in the new country, some immigrants become isolated and despondent at times with serious consequences. In extreme cases this sense of isolation and desolation can have fatal outcomes. A case in point and one it would be remiss of me not to mention in the context of this contribution, is that of homeless Polish man, Henryk Piotrowski who was killed in Dublin last week as a result of sleeping in a rubbish skip which was emptied as he slept. It is a sad reflection on our society that any human being should die in this manner.

“When I heard the news I also thought of the Polish Community living in the North and how 28 families had been attacked in Antrim in racist incidents and the 70 Roma families forced to flee South Belfast in recent years because of racist attacks.

“As Junior Minister during my time in the Assembly, I launched an excellent booklet in Omagh for Ethnic Minority Groups called ‘Awakening the Silent Voices’ and I was also able to give continuing support through the Ethnic Minority Development Fund.

“Without doubt prejudice is prevalent in some sections of our society and needs to be challenged to change views of “the other” which manifests itself in sectarian and racist attacks.In this City (Derry) we have a young man, Paul McAuley who was left in a vegetated state after a violent sectarian attack inflicted by bigots as he enjoyed a celebratory BBQ with a group of cross community and ethnic minority friends prior to one of them emmigrating

“By adopting a zero tolerance to sectarianism/racism we will bring about attitudinal change that will help us build a society of equals.

“I would recommend WIP support the demand for a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland so that no group – ethnic minorities, women, LGB&T or those from any religious denomination etc., experience violation of social and economic rights.”


Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson addresses community groups and organisations from across the West Tyrone area on accessing EU funding as part of her ‘Standing up for you’ campaign.


Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson took time out of her hectic schedule while visiting community organisations in West Belfast to speak to An Phoblacht about her ‘Standing up for you in Europe’ campaign.

The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets held a white line vigil in Belfast to remember all those killed and maimed by Plastic Bullets and to call upon the Unionist Community to become involved in the campaign.

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson accompanied by South Down Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard visit the fishing town of Ardglass in Co. Down to hear first hand accounts from Skippers of Irish fishing vessels from Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie of the hardship faced by them, their families and communities by EU regulations.