Hundreds of farmers express their fears for the future at national day of protest over CAP and climate action plans
There was warm applause at the farmers’ protest in Roscommon town for the handful of men present who had walked to Dublin in 1966 along with 30,000 colleagues to stage a sit down protest outside the Department of Agriculture.
Speaking outside the department’s office in Roscommon, the local IFA county chairman Jim O’Connor said: “We still know where Dublin is and we are prepared to walk back”.
Close to the 300 farmers and a cavalcade of tractors had made the journey from Hyde Park GAA grounds to the Department offices, with Mr O’Connor telling the protesters from Sligo, Mayo, Galway Leitrim and Roscommon that while they were frequently rivals at the Hyde “we are all united today”.
Roscommon was one of four venues where farmers on Friday expressed their fears for the future, worried about plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51pc, while angry about what they see as lack of consultation as a new CAP is prepared.
“I am here for fairness”, said Breedge Sharkey from Knockarush, Boyle. She said whatever happened with CAP would have an impact “for years to come” and her main concern was for future generations and the survival of the family farm. “We are the food producers and there is a lot involved in that,” she said.
“We have our animals grass fed, out in the air and healthy butI feel there is no means on what we do. We are moving away from family farms to big factory type operations.”
With four adult children Ms Sharkey said the next generation of farmers were entitled to be able to make a living.
A common theme among many of those attending Roscommon’s protest was the lack of consultation by the Government and lack of recognition for measures they have already taken to help the environment.
Rosemary McDonagh, chair of the IFA’s National Business Committee said that farmers had participated in GLAS, REPS and AEOS and as “custodians of the land” would be happy to continue doing their share.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the Irish economy. Look at the spin off for rural towns and communities, the life farming brings to rural Ireland. Didn’t we see that during the pandemic,” she said.
Ms McDonagh said the Department of Agriculture needed to sit down with farmers and not “come at us like a bullet” with new CAP measures. “CAP used to be about income support. Now it’s about environmental support,” she said.
One face in the crowd in Roscommon was environmentalist Duncan Stewart who was there with a film crew and happy to engage with many of those present eager to share their views with home and to hear his on planned reforms.
“I told him he had to be part of the solution and he agreed,” said Martin Gavin a sheep and cattle farmer from Leanne who is involved in the Pearl Mussel Project where farmers and other experts work together to preserve the species.
Jim O’ Connor said the proposals being put forward by the Department of Agriculture on CAP were unworkable “and will not help Irish agriculture or family farms”.
Outlining the IFA’s request for grant aid of €300 per suckler cows and €30 per ewe, Mr O’Connor said farmers were now getting “pence” for fleeces.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy who had travelled from Dublin for the protest said that while there were “massive challenges ahead” in terms of climate change ,farmers had to be perceived as part of the solution. “We must listen to them.”