Farmers' fury: 'Trade deal will terminate rural life'

Protesters during a farmers protest over the Mercosur Deal outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Protesters during a farmers protest over the Mercosur Deal outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Protesters during a farmers protest over the Mercosur Deal outside Leinster House, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Cormac McQuinn and Margaret Donnelly

Up to 2,500 farmers marched on Leinster House to protest against the EU's Mercosur trade deal amid fears it will devastate the beef industry.

There was anger among the crowd and protesters left their boots at the gates of Leinster House with a sign that read "no longer needed".

It came ahead of a Dáil debate on a Sinn Féin motion calling on the Government to reject Mercosur.

The Fine Gael-led Government and European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan - who was involved in the Mercosur deal with South American countries - were the targets of much of the protesters' ire.

In the Dáil, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice singled out Mr Hogan, criticising a €1bn support package he secured for EU farmers.

He said Irish beef exports alone are worth €3bn, "so Phil can shove his €1bn where the sun doesn't shine as it will not save our beef industry".

The protest was organised by the Beef Plan Movement, which represents around 20,000 farmers.

One senior member, David Whelehan, accused successive governments of failing farmers.

Pat McCormack, of the ICMSA, argued that the "Mercosur deal is trying to terminate the people of rural Ireland".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed that Mercosur represents a "sell-out" of Irish farmers and called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to support her party's motion.

Mr Varadkar said the deal has not yet been signed off on and that if it's not in Ireland's interest, "we will not hesitate to vote against it".

Irish Independent