O'Brien calls for end to legal threats against protesters

Photo Roger Jones.
Photo Roger Jones.
Dermot O Brien from the beef plan movement outside the Department of Agriculture Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tadhg Evans

A KERRY farmer representing the Beef Plan Movement (BPM) on the newly formed Beef Market Taskforce has called for all legal threats to be lifted from individuals who took part in protests outside meat factories this summer.

Firies-based suckler farmer Dermot O'Brien made the comments after the scheduled first taskforce meeting in Dublin was suspended on Monday following altercations outside the building.

The Beef Taskforce was set up last month as part of an agreement struck by relevant parties last month. Among its functions is to monitor the implementation of this deal. It is chaired by Killarney's Michael Dowling.

The protests calling for reform of the beef sector began in late July under the BPM banner. Mr O'Brien told The Kerryman that all protesting - including protests that continued for a time independently of BPM - has now ceased, as per last month's agreement.

Meat Industry Ireland Representatives claimed that they were physically and aggressively prevented from entering Monday's meeting by a group of farmers protesting outside. Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed condemned Monday's incidents, saying: "It was a great pity that farm representatives were not in a position to air the legitimate concerns of farmers at the Taskforce".

Mr O'Brien, who was allowed to enter the building, said the protest "by a number of independent farmers" was a show of solidarity with a number of individuals that claim to be under legal threat.

Last month's agreement required that all legal proceedings by beef processors be dropped against farm organisations and individual farmers. Meat Industry Ireland has said this commitment has been honoured. However it is claimed that legal threats do remain over a few farmers who protested at C&D Foods in County Longford, owned by the ABP food group.

Mr O'Brien told The Kerryman that BPM intended to raise concerns at Monday's meeting, as they "stand in solidarity" with those they claim are still facing legal action. He added, however, that he would not condone behaviour preventing members of the taskforce from taking part.

"We need to be realistic," he said. "Some incredible work has been done, and now farmers have a voice, a way of enforcing the rules and conditions and getting meat processors to work with farmers.

"It's fair to protest, it's fair to voice opinions, but any physical impeding is not acceptable."

Mr O'Brien said a BPM public meeting will take place in Killarney before the end of November, at which last month's agreement and newly formed 'Irish Beef Producers' organisation will be discussed.