Tensions flare over claims IFA members broke beef picket lines

Some of the messages on display at the Beef Plan Movement protest
Some of the messages on display at the Beef Plan Movement protest

Martin Ryan

There were sharp exchanges between farmers at a meeting of Limerick IFA after it was alleged that "prominent IFA members" had broken picket lines placed by beef protesters on meat factories.

Claims that there was "video evidence" of IFA members passing pickets prompted heated exchanges.

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A motion from the Kilmallock branch demanded that any IFA officer who passed a farmer picket "should be asked to resign".

The IFA's leadership faced strong criticism for their failure to challenge the beef factories on prices.

"I have been rubbished because I warned about what was coming down on beef farmers," said former Limerick IFA livestock chairman Eddie Scanlan at the meeting.

"The Beef Plan Movement was born out of a vacuum that was left because the IFA told us that there was nothing that could be done, [on prices].

"If we don't get real about this there will be a very small IFA because the beef men won't be there."

Donal O'Brien, a former member of the IFA's national livestock committee, expressed his disappointment with the manner in which protesters were treated on the picket by some IFA members.


Simon White of the Askeaton IFA branch said the association had failed to take action against the factories to protect farmer incomes, even though the leadership knew that beef producers were struggling to make a living.

"The beef farmers are on their knees and IFA did not give the leadership that was needed," Mr White said.

"I am sorry to have to say that and I think IFA has to stand back and decide where they are going in representing farmers' interests."

Jimmy O'Donnell (Kilmallock IFA) said farmers who took part in the protests at the factories had been subjected to "bully-boy tactics" because they were standing up for their right to a livelihood from beef.

He said many of the farmers on the picket were dairy farmers who were concerned for the future market for their calves if the beef industry goes.

He called on the IFA to "tell the farmers the truth - tell them that there is no future for them in beef farming and don't be misleading them".

There were also fiery clashes between dairy and beef interests after it was claimed that dairy-type calves would be "worthless" to beef farmers struggling to survive on current prices.

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