Farmers lift one protest with hope others will follow suit

Tánaiste Simon Coveney wants farmers to end pickets. Picture: Mark Condren
Tánaiste Simon Coveney wants farmers to end pickets. Picture: Mark Condren

Margaret Donnelly, Claire Fox and Ciaran Moran

Protesters lifted a blockade at Dawn Meats' Slane plant yesterday, with a statement from the Independent Farmers saying it hoped farmers throughout the country would follow suit.

In a statement, Independent Farmers said it hoped the step down of the picket at Slane would be seen by other protesting farmers as a positive step.

It added members' faith was now in Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, saying: "It appears to us that the peaceful pickets have achieved all they can and it is now time to enter the next stage of this process."

However, a number of farmers the 'Farming Independent' spoke to at yesterday's National Ploughing Championships said they would continue protesting.

Dawn Meats had yesterday said it was considering legal proceedings against Hugh Doyle, chairman of the Beef Plan Movement.

In legal correspondence with Mr Doyle, Dawn Meats claimed that Mr Doyle had been acting "in concert with others and in conspiracy with the Beef Plan Movement", allegedly in contempt of an order of the High Court by conducting and/or organising illegal blockades of its client's meat processing plant at Greenhills, Beauparc, Navan, Co Meath (the "Slane Plant"), and at other meat processing plants operated by Dawn Meats around the country.

Dawn Meats claims the Slane facility had beef carcasses in storage worth over €500,000 that were not being allowed to leave the plant.

It came as Tánaiste Simon Coveney reiterated his call for protesting farmers to end their pickets, saying: "We need to be really careful this does not split farm families and farm organisations."

He added he was really worried about the ongoing beef dispute.

"We need to be really careful this does not split farm families and farm organisations," he said as he called on protesting farmers to consider the agreement brokered at the weekend.

Mr Coveney was speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, where a group of beef farmers stormed the IFA tent at what they called the lack of representation the organisation has for beef farmers and in protest at the agreement struck between stakeholders on the beef crisis.

The protesters directed their protest at IFA president Joe Healy and IFA director Damien McDonald who they claimed were "selling out the beef sector to the factories".

Environment Minister Richard Bruton, who attended the championships at Ballintrane, Co Carlow, said: "It's time for farmers to keep calm heads and recognise the leadership of farm groups."

Separately, Kepak Group issued a stark warning over the implications of any further increase to the backlog of cattle and sheep caused by prolonged illegal blockades of its processing plants.

In a statement it said suppliers of cattle should be aware that by the end of this week it is estimated that there will be a 100,000 backlog in the market - which is increasing at approximately 6,000 cattle per day.

"It will take months to work through the backlog as the market preference will be for under 30-month cattle when processing recommences.

"Over-age animals will put increased pressure on already depressed beef markets," it said.

Irish Independent