Protesting beef farmer faces jail for contempt of court as meat battle set to intensify

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

The High Court will tomorrow decide if a protesting farmer will be sent to jail in the first of what Mr Justice Senan Allen was told could be many applications for contempt of court.

Yesterday at the High Court, Dawn Meats claimed 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 Dawn Meats and Anglo Beef Processors separately secured orders restraining several named protesters, and anyone with knowledge of the making of the court's orders, from continuing their blockade of the plants.

Yesterday Lyndon MacCann, counsel for Dawn Meats, told Judge Allen the situation outside his client's plant at Grannagh, Co Waterford, had "intensified overnight".

Yesterday morning deliveries of cattle to the plant had been blocked by protesters, 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 protesters had learnt of this they had parked a small truck at the rear gate, blocking it.

Mr MacCann, who appeared with barrister Stephen Walsh, said one of those 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.

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Mr MacCann said trucks with nothing to do with beef processing had also been refused access by protesters.

Dawn Meats was 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 around 60 people are believed to be involved with the protest at Grannagh, the identities of whom were unknown to the company.

Mr MacCann said Mr 'Mex' Delahunty had been aware of the injunction, and aware of the consequences of failing to obey the order.

Barrister Patricia 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 the situation was most difficult.

While he had no difficulty about talks taking place between the parties, there was no room for engagement or negotiations in a situation where court orders were being breached.

"Everybody who has had sight of the orders could understand what they mean," Judge Allen said. In the circumstances, the court was prepared to grant Dawn Meats permission to bring the attachment and committal proceedings.

Irish Independent

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