Matt Dempsey

Matt Dempsey

The 2014 Irish Grassland Association Lifetime Merit Award was presented to Matt Dempsey at a function at the Heritage Golf and Spa Resort in Killenard, Co. Laois on 22 January 2015. Matt was joined by his wife Mary and colleagues from the Irish Farmers Journal. Matt was also joined by council members of the Irish Grassland Association and Sean and Madeleine Flanagan, both former secretaries of the IGA. In presenting the award, IGA President Paul Crosson outlined the considerable contribution that Matt has made to the agri-food industry over a long career as a leading opinion-maker and advocate for the farming sector. Matt’s career began with RTE in 1969 as Producer of Agricultural Programmes before moving to the Farmers Journal in 1973 as EEC correspondent. He became editor of the Farmers Journal in 1988, a post he held for 25 years until his retirement from this position in March 2013. Matt continues to have a significant involvement in the agricultural industry; he is currently chairman of the RDS, the Irish National Stud, IdentiGEN and The Agricultural Trust. In addition, Matt runs an intensive beef and tillage farm in Co. Kildare. Matt Dempsey is a past president of the Irish Grassland Association (1998/99). In a wide-ranging and thought-provoking address, Matt thanked the IGA for the awarding of the Lifetime Merit Award and urged the IGA to continue to challenge industry and encourage the development of new grassland technologies while helping to expedite the transfer of profit-enhancing knowledge. He described his time with RTE when the national broadcaster was based in the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin. In particular his memories of seminal moments in the industry at a time when Ireland was newly acceded to the EEC were revealing – such as the EEC-driven move to abolish the multi-tier milk pricing structure that had been a feature of Irish Government agri-food policy and the consequences of this policy change. The current policy to increase milk output in the aftermath of quota abolition, and the ultimate effect of this on farm profitability, was also referred to. Matt discussed the motivation of Irish primary producers; to produce a high-value niche product for the growing global upper-middle classes or the produce a commodity product for a much larger consumer-base. Matt referred to the opportunities that have arisen from developments in molecular biology – specifically he alluded to the huge potential of epigenetics to manipulate genes and improve animal productivity and efficiency. However, he also expressed frustration at the slow rate of breed improvement in grass breeding, which underpins the Irish livestock sector, when compared to alternative crops such as maize. The event and presentation of the IGA Lifetime Merit Award is a recognition by the IGA of the contribution that Matt Dempsey has made to the Irish grassland farming sector. We would like to congratulate Matt and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.