Protesting farmers threaten 'no food or drink in Dublin' for Christmas if demands aren't met after meeting with Minister
- Farmers vow to escalate their protests and bring Dublin city centre to a standstill
- Delegates meet Minister Michael Creed to discuss ongoing beef dispute
- AA Roadwatch and gardaí keeping motorists and commuters updated
- No impact on the M50 as of yet
PROTESTING farmers have threatened that there will be "no food or drink" in Dublin for Christmas if their demands aren't met following their meeting with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed in the foyer of the Department of Agriculture this morning.
The protesters called on farmers throughout the country to park their tractors near Leinster House and the Shelbourne Hotel in a bid to put pressure on the minister.
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About 100 farmers and their tractors slept overnight in their tractors outside St Stephens Green.
Shortly after 8.30am this morning, the minister met a small number of delegates in the foyer of the department. The details of the conversation have yet to be disclosed.
They are demanding for injunctions that were placed on farmers to be removed and for beef talks to be resumed.
"If the taskforce is not up and running before December 15 we will be back here and there will be no food or drink in this capital city for Christmas," spokesperson for the delegates Jolene Smith said following the meeting with Minister Creed.
Westmeath farmer Lester Gordon called on protesters to block the M50, Port Tunnel and Dublin Airport.
There were hopes of the possibility of the blockade ending following discussions between the farmers and those who met with the Minister, but several rejected this with one protester telling the representatives: "We’re not leaving this time, we’re not being shafted" and adding: "Were not going anywhere."
Farmers Michael Coyle and John Dallon addressed the crowd of protesters to say they are unhappy with the meeting and vowed not to leave until they feel progress has been made.
"We didn’t stay here for no reason. Minister came out this morning. It wasn’t a great way to have a meeting at 7am when lads were asleep in tractors.
"We need an apology and if we don’t get one we need his resignation. He doesn’t back farmers," Mr Coyle said.
"Until the injunctions are lifted there will be no talks.
"The people of the city have been very supportive. We could be here for another while. We won’t be going for anywhere for a while."
Mr Dallon from Kildare, said that they “didn’t really get anywhere” in their discussions but said they hoped for the five farm organisations - who aren’t officially involved in the blockade - to meet over the coming days to resume the beef task force talks.
“We had a good talk with Minister Creed, he understands. And the way it is we’ve told him we’ll be back on the 15th (of December) to hit the distribution centers.
“We need to build trust in the Minister. At the moment we have very little trust in the Minister,” Mr Dallon said.
Protesting farmers have raised a number of issues, which included the comments made by Michael Creed in the Dail yesterday.
The Agriculture Minister said meat company managers received death threats at a firm which got an injunction against blockading beef farmers, but this has been strongly denied.
Gardai have not received an allegation of a death threat being made against senior staff at a beef company despite claims made by the Agriculture Minister.
There is increasing pressure on Michael Creed to withdraw comments he made in the Dail yesterday in which he said sinister threats were made against senior management at a company in Longford.
Mr Creed, a Fine Gael TD and Agriculture Minister, also said that families of staff had been intimidated within the local community.
The comments have angered farmers currently blockading the streets around Leinster House who have called for the Minister to withdraw and apologise for the remarks.
Gardai have now said that they have not received a formal complaint in relation to the threats but are aware of a phone call being made to a person.
A Garda spokesman told Independent.ie: “An Garda Síochána is aware of incidents of phone calls received by a person but neither an allegation or formal written complaint of a ‘death threat’ has been made.”
In the Dail yesterday Mr Creed, speaking in relation to a beef company who had injunctions against two individuals, said: “What has compounded the difficulty is that senior management in that company have had death threats issued to them. And their partners and families have been intimidated in that local community,” Mr Creed told the Dáil.
While several TDs expressed support for the protesting farmers, Mr Creed said “we are grappling with very difficult issues”.
The farmers have demanded a public apology and clarification from the Minister over the comments with Longford councillor Paraic Brady saying that there was no complaint attached to the Garda Pulse number for the alleged incident.
There are also calls for injunctions made against two beef protesters, including Mr Brady, to be lifted.
Earlier this morning Mr Creed held an impromptu meeting with some farmers at the blockade at around 7.30am.
He told them he was "fighting for your cause" but some responded by saying "the wheels of justice move slowly, but they’re not moving." A letter with the blockaders demands was also presented to the Minister.
Afterwards representatives expressed annoyance over the unannounced manner in which Mr Creed approaches a large number of protesters.
They called on all farm organisations to come together to ensure reintroduction of beef taskforce.
However some farmers want to remain at the protest and are demanding an apology from Minister Creed.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is difficult to speak to protesting farmers who are blocking roads in Dublin as there is "no clear leadership".
Speaking this morning, he said he understood their anger because beef prices have been low for a long period, but said there is nothing the government can do bar income supports and finding new markets.
"As you know, the minister for agriculture met with them this morning," he said after giving a speech at a conference on workplace equality in Dublin. "None of the farm organisations are part of this protest and there's no clear leadership so it is difficult to engage with them, but that is what he is trying to do."
He said the government is very aware the farmers have had a very bad time in the last couple of months and years and that beef prices are below the cost of production.
Mr Varadkar said that is not sustainable for anyone. "But we also need to be honest with beef farmers as well," he said. "There are some things the government controls and some things the government doesn't and the beef price is one of them. He said the price, like that of oil, flour and milk, is determined by the market.
He said the price farmers are getting in Ireland is similar to the European average and higher than outside Europe. "Hopefully the protests will end," he added.
Gardaí have warned commuters about road closures in the capital this morning. Last night, St Stephen's Green North was closed with tractors blocking from the top of Hume Street to the top of Kildare Street.
According to AA Roadwatch this morning, the affected areas include St Stephen’s Green. Stephen’s Green East and North are closed along with Kildare Street and Dawson Street.
Earlsfort Terrace is closed, along with Leeson Street outbound, but traffic can currently use St Stephen’s Green South to go from Lesson Street inbound to Cuffe Street.
The Kevin Street/Cuffe Street stretch is closed to traffic heading towards Stephen’s Green.
Elsewhere, Merrion Square South and East, and Merrion St Upper are also closed.
There has been no impact on the M50 as of yet.
Diversions are in place to facilitate traffic but there are delays in the area.
A Garda spokesperson said: "Kevin Street, Cuffe Street, Kildare Street, Merrion Square South, Dawson Street, Merrion Row" were closed until further notice.
Around a dozen cars belonging to TDs and Senators were unable to leave Leinster House last night.
According to a source present, among those unable to leave were Fine Gael's Tony McLoughlin, John O'Mahony, Bernard Durkan and Martin Conway; Fianna Fáil's Jackie Cahill and Eamon Scanlon; Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris; and former justice minister and current senator Michael McDowell.
Five representatives of Independent Farmers want to meet Mr Creed to discuss the ongoing beef dispute and to secure a fair return for their produce. Chairman of Independent Farmers Ireland Michael Fitzpatrick vowed to increase the fleet of tractors each day to gridlock the city centre.
"We have to send one [message to a] WhatsApp group, and we'll have another 1,000 tractors here. I'm serious," he told the Irish Independent last night.
"The farmers here are feeding Ireland.
"We want a proper price for our cattle, and if we get that we'll be gone home."
Farmer John Dallon, from Castledermot, Co Kildare, called for more farmers to join them.
"We need to stand here and be united, the whole lot of us, because come tomorrow morning at half-six, this city has to move. If we're in the way, it can't move," he said.
Mr Creed told the Dáil yesterday that meat company managers have received death threats at a firm which got an injunction against blockading beef farmers. TDs who spoke supporting the demonstrators called for independent and non-aligned farmers to be recognised and represented at the taskforce.