Ciaran Moran: 'Support from 'abandoned' rural areas pouring in'
'We have nothing to lose at this stage" is a common response from farmers when asked why they took to the streets in recent days. But returns from beef farming have not all of a sudden gone down the tubes.
Beef farmers have been struggling for years and this fact is reflected in their incomes. They have seen their annual incomes settle below €15,000 for a number of years. Quite simply, beef farmers' incomes are not sustainable and most are forced to have an off-farm job to support the farm.
So what was the straw that broke the camel's back and took farmers to factory gates this week?
It is clear that the Beef Plan movement has crystallised an anger that has been festering in farmyards for many months and indeed years.
I have heard many farmers remark that it is rural Ireland they are fighting for, not just beef farming.
So while the posters of many of those protesting talk about 'movement rules' and 'cattle grids', the fundamentals of the protest reach far wider.
Proof of that comes from the huge support that the protesting farmers have received from many within their communities - local people who have no direct connection to the beef sector.
In many rural parts of the country there is a widely held view that farming - and in particular beef farming - is the heartbeat of the community, both economically and socially.
The Beef Plan movement says it has repeatedly told the Government that rural Ireland is heavily dependent on beef farmers and that factories need to manage volatility in the market better, to ensure a sustainable future for farmers and all relevant stakeholders.
There is now undoubtedly a palpable anger among many in rural Ireland, with many seeing their way of life being threatened from all angles.
Being able to make a living is essential for everyone's sense of self-worth and for the benefit of all communities.
National employment statistics may put unemployment at an all-time low, but the job opportunities for many beef farmers are simply not there.
There are no Googles in rural Ireland, as one CEO said recently.
Unless future job prospects in rural Ireland are top of the Government's agenda, it should only expect this disquiet in rural Ireland to continue.
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