Sexual blackmail and threats of violence: new claims rock beef protest

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Factory workers and farmers who passed the beef protests in recent weeks were met with verbal abuse, threats of violence, and blackmail, the factories have claimed.

It is also claimed some workers were blackmailed in a "menacing email" that hinted at exposing an alleged affair.

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The email included a warning that some "very interesting information", including details of "sleeping arrangements" on a work trip would be sent to a spouse.

Others suffered threats of violence, abuse or warnings their vehicles would be "busted up", it is claimed. Another was told by protesters they would "deal with him if he attempts to go to the factory again".

Evidence presented in the High Court by meat factories detailed the alleged actions of some protesters over the past few weeks.

The factories provided photographs, CCTV footage and Facebook posts as evidence in court to demonstrate the actions of the protesters.

The increasingly bitter claims and counter-claims have rocked the industry amid warnings beef shortages may be on the cards for shoppers.

The disputes began under the banner of the Beef Plan Movement last month, as farmers vented their anger over low prices for beef.

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The movement stepped back from protests in recent weeks but some farmers continued to turn out at factory gates.

Last night, Dermot O'Brien of the Beef Plan said it is recommending that farmer protests taking place at meat factories are suspended to allow for meaningful talks.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed yesterday said the ongoing protests will not be solved "in the High Court or on the picket line".

The minister urged beef farmers and meat factories to come back to the table to negotiate on the future of the industry.

The factories had claimed earlier in the protests that staff and suppliers going to and from plants were being intimidated. Details of that intimidation was shared in court last week.

Veterinary Ireland has also claimed the organisation received reports of alleged intimidation directed at vets by some farmer protesters.

During the first phase of the protests, one factory claims several hauliers were threatened and verbally abused, with one told his name would be "blackened" and farmers told not to deal with him.

One claimed a man was dragged from his tractor and his tax disc removed, with a threat he would be reported to gardaí for not having his tractor taxed.

Workers at one plant received a "menacing email from an email address associated with the protesters", according to the evidence.

It said "sleeping arrangements" from a work trip would be revealed.

A driver for one factory reported he was told "f*ck off" back to the north. The driver is from Leitrim.

Another was told "got back to the north and stay in it you black wh*re".

Another factory said in its affidavit that a WhatsApp message to a Beef Plan group was sent stating the movement had officially stood down from the protest at the plant.

However, the protesters returned the following day and included the sender of the WhatsApp message according to the court document.

Gardaí were contacted on a number of occasions, as protesters blocked the entrances to a number of plants during the pickets.

At one plant, when the protesters were approached by staff of the plant who requested them to move from the company property, they were told: "You have just escalated this and now traffic will be backed up… because there is nothing getting in or out."

At one factory, a complaint was made to gardaí that children were involved in standing in front of articulated vehicles.

Another haulier who tried to park in his usual spot was allegedly told by protesters: "That's a nice truck - if you don't want it busted, f*ck off".

One haulier told a factory that when he went to collect a load of cattle, he was followed, stopped at a junction and verbally abused.

The document claims the haulier was told he and his lorry would be set alight if he continued to collect and deliver cattle to the factory.

Others had their registration numbers and photos uploaded to Facebook.

Hauliers also reported receiving threatening phone calls.

Mr Creed has urged the meat factories to drop court action, and farmers need to halt their protests so meaningful talks will take place.

Meanwhile, the Beef Plan Movement did not respond to Irish Independent requests for comment.

However speaking to 'RTÉ News' last night, the Beef Plan Movement said it was ready to represent the protesting farmers at talks if that is what they wanted.

Dermot O'Brien of the Beef Plan said the group is recommending to farmers that the protests are suspended to allow a fresh round of talks to take place.

Irish Independent

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