Simon Coveney urges beef farmers: 'Stop before you do irreversible damage'

Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has issued an impassioned plea for beef farmers to end the boycott of factories before they do “irreversible damage to this sector”.

In an unusual intervention, Mr Coveney said he wanted “as Tánaiste” to “speak very directly to farm families” and warn the situation is reaching a “tipping point”.

The former agriculture minister said he understands the anger of farmers who believe they have been “blackguarded by factories for many years”.

“And there's a whole reason a series of reasons for that which I think many people understand.”

But he added: “We are at a moment. That is very close to a tipping point for the Irish beef industry.”

Mr Coveney said the agriculture industry is facing into uncertain times with Brexit on the horizon.

He acknowledged that farm families shouldn’t be expected to produce livestock which is then sold at below cost.

“We need to find a way of changing that over time. But we got a deal on Sunday, which in my view is the best deal available right now. It was endorsed by all farming organizations and the industry.”

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The Tánaiste said the outcome of those talks needed to be respected by those still on the picket lines because “we’re very close to this moment that is potentially going to do irreversible damage to this sector”.

In that scenario, Mr Coveney said the people who would suffer most would be farmers.

“So I would ask whether you're at the Ploughing today, or whether you're at home, farmers need to take an interest in trying to resolve this issue.”

He added: “I mean it when I say it, and I'm saying this as Tánaiste of the country, the continuation of this blockade is going to do things to the beef industry that we as a government are not going to be able to reverse. And people need to think about that.

“And I would rarely intervene in something like this in the way that I'm now doing if I didn't feel as strongly as I do.”

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