Hundreds of workers in the Midlands face being laid off due to the unlawful blockade of a pet food manufacturing plant, the High Court has heard.
The blockade of the C&D Pet Foods at Edgeworthstown Co Longford is being maintained by protesters, who since the weekend have been physically obstructing the plant's entrance, in support of farmers involved in the on-going dispute with meat processors over the price of beef.
The company claims that if the protestors, which include a local Fine Gael Councillor, continue the blockade it could result in more than 500 workers in the locality being laid off in the coming days.
C&D is owned by the ABP Food Group, which is one of Ireland's largest beef processors.
C&D claims that despite the fact it plays no part in determining prices paid for beef, as it mainly uses pork and chicken in its products, it has been "tactically targeted by protesters purely on the basis that it is part of the ABP group."
At the High Court on Tuesday afternoon Mr Justice Garrett Simons granted C&D Foods unlimited a temporary injunction preventing protesters from trespassing, unlawfully blockading the plant, and from intimidating individuals going to and from the plant.
The action is against two named defendants, Cllr Paraic Brady of The Meadows, Drumlish, Co Longford, and Colm Leonard of Aughanoran Dring Co Longford.
The injunctions also apply to anyone else who has knowledge of the orders.
The court heard that the two named defendants are the only protestors C&D have been able to identify, but others are involved.
The injunction was granted on an ex-parte basis and will return before the court on Friday, September 13th.
Seeking the order Brian O'Moore SC for C&D said his client does not wish to halt any peaceful or lawful protest outside the plant but said that since Saturday evening the defendants and others have gone beyond a legitimate peaceful protest.
Since the blockade commented trucks trying to make deliveries from the plant have been prevented from freely entering or leaving the plant, counsel said.
Counsel said that protesters have maintained the blockade by walking in continuous circles around trucks trying to leave or enter the plant, and have trespassed on C&D's premises.
Deliveries have had to be cancelled, counsel said, adding that the firm's staff have been subjected to threatening and abusive language from the protesters.
Mr O'Moore said Cllr Brady, a member of Fine Gael, told senior staff members of C&D that no product would be allowed in or out of the site until the dispute over beef prices was resolved.
Counsel said he also told them he was instructed not to let any trucks out of the plant, but would not say who gave him the instructions, and also threatened to have "300 additional men" to join the protest if a truck attempted to exit the plant.
Mr Leonard counsel said, was verbally abusive towards C&D's staff and shouted "fuck you" and "fuck your team" at them in an aggressive manner.
A nearby packaging business is also affected by the protest, counsel added.
This has caused major disruption to the firm's business and that only two of its 8 production lines are currently operating. This has resulted in a loss in revenue of €400,000.
Counsel said that if the unlawful activity continues it will have to temporarily lay off hundreds of workers at the plant on Wednesday, September 11th, as its stocks have been exhausted.
This will cause severe damage to the firm's credibility and puts its international markets at risk, counsel said.
If the blockade is not stopped then the employment of more workers in the area will also be put at risk.