Meat company managers received death threats at a firm which got an injunction against blockading beef farmers, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has told the Dáil.
Mr Creed was speaking as hundreds of independent farmers, many driving tractors, protested in Dublin city centre over low cattle prices. The Minister said these death threats added to difficulties in establishing a taskforce to deal with the beef crisis which dominated this summer and autumn.
The Leinster House protests follow blockades at beef processing factories over several months. TDs who spoke supporting the demonstrators, called for independent and non-aligned farmers to be recognised and represented at the taskforce.
The taskforce was promised as part of an agreement to end the protests. But the Mr Creed said all TDs were well aware of the specific issues involved in convening of the group, as farmers called for remaining injunctions to be lifted against farmers who picketed outside processing plants.
The Agriculture Minister said the injunctions that remained were granted to a company that is not part of the taskforce.
“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”.
A Dáil row also erupted when the Minister said that Independent TD Mattie McGrath was “shrugging his shoulders” and might “dismiss the difficulty of death threats - but the Government doesn’t and the gardai don’t”.
Mr McGrath countered that he accepted that threats had been made and that the Government was taking them seriously and called on the Minister to withdraw his remarks. The Minister said previous experience had shown what followed from death threats and they were taking them very seriously.
Mr McGrath said the demonstrating farmers outside the Leinster House gates were non-political and they were worried about the perilous situation they faced. He had called on the Minister to meet them and to accept a letter from them. “ The taskforce isn’t doing the job, won’t do the job and it’s not business as usual,” Mr McGrath said.
The Tipperary TD also said he appreciated the support from Dublin-based People Before Profit, Brid Smith, who raised the issue. Ms Smith said there had been eight weeks of blockading of meat production plants and farmers were back to ask for the issues to be dealt with urgently.
She called on the Government to be inclusive of all farmer representative groups, and the Independent Farmers of Ireland who have re-grouped and have demanded the lifting of all injunctions so that meaningful talks can take place.
Fianna Fáil Cavan-Monaghan TD, Niamh Smyth, argued the Minister had not delivered on his commitment two months ago when farmers ended their protests to deliver on a taskforce.