Meat factory seeks to jail protesting farmer as court battle set to intensify

Centre of justice: The Four Courts in Dublin
Centre of justice: The Four Courts in Dublin

Aodhan O’Faolain and Ray Managh

The High Court will be asked on Friday to decide whether a protesting farmer should be sent to jail, in the first of what Mr Justice Senan Allen was told could be many applications that could see individual protesters jailed for being in contempt of court. 

Today at the High court, Dawn Meats told the High Court that protests at one of its processing plants have escalated since it secured an injunction restraining the blockading of their factories and the intimidation of staff and suppliers.

On Tuesday lawyers for firms, Dawn Meats and Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) separately secured various orders restraining several of named protesters, and anyone with knowledge of the making of the court’s orders, from continuing their blockade of the plants.

Today (Wednesday) Lyndon MacCann SC for Dawn Meats returned before the High Court and told Judge Allen that the situation outside his client's plant at Grannagh, Co Waterford had "intensified overnight".

On Wednesday morning deliveries of cattle to the plant had been blocked by protestors, who stood in front of the vehicles and refused to move aside.  An attempt was made to use the rear entrance of the plant and several deliveries had got through. 

Once protestors had learned of this they had parked a small truck at the rear gate, blocking it.

Mr MacCann, who appeared with barrister Stephen Walsh, said that one of the persons that have breached the orders is a farmer called Seamus 'Mex' Delahunty. He had been present at the rear gate and had directed a volley of verbal abuse at one of the Dawn Meat managers.

A copy of the court order with a penal endorsement had been served on him, he said.

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Mr MacCann said that trucks, which have nothing to do with beef processing, had also been refused access by the protestors.  Dawn Meats was now seeking permission to bring a motion seeking the attachment of one of the protesters and/or their committal to prison if the individual in question fails to comply with the injunction.

He said that approximately 60 people are believed to be involved with the protest at Grannagh, the identities of whom were currently unknown to the company.  He said Mr ‘Mex’ Delahunty had been aware of the injunction, and aware of the consequences of failing to obey the order.

Barrister Patrica Hill, counsel for the Irish Farmers Association which is not a party to the proceedings, asked the court to consider putting a stay on any order that could see any of the protesters end up in prison. 

She said the IFA was seeking time to engage with the parties and see if the situation could be resolved.  The IFA had concerns whether the farmers involved in the protests were aware of the consequences of any breaches. 

Mr Justice Allen, who noted what the IFA had said to the court, said he was mindful of the tensions involved and that the situation was most difficult. While he had no difficulty at all about talks taking place between the parties, there was however no room for engagement or negotiations in a situation where court orders were being breached.

He said the courts had  to act swiftly when orders of the court were being flouted.  The terms of the injunctions granted by the court on Tuesday were obvious to anybody with the slightest intelligence.

“Everybody who has had sight of the orders could understand what they mean,,” Judge Allen said and, in the circumstances, the court was prepared to grant Dawn Meats permission to bring the attachment and committal proceedings which he made returnable to Friday's sitting of the court.

Temporary injunctions against protesters were also granted Wednesday by Judge Allen in relation to blockades at Kepak plants and by Mr Justice Tony O’Connor in relation to people blockading premises at Ryland Loswer, Bunclody, Co Wexford.

The orders, similar to ones granted to Dawn Meats and Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) on Tuesday, prohibits named defendants from trespassing, obstructing, hindering or in any way interfering with access to meat plants.

Barrister Anthony Thuillier, counsel for Kepak Group said the protests were costing the group financial loss and threatened a new multi-million-euro deal with China.

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