Tensions high as protest halts access for Chinese inspectors in Athleague

Stock image / Getty Images
Stock image / Getty Images
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

TENSIONS at the meat factories continue to remain high as farmers continued a number of unofficial protests at meat plants around the country.

Yesterday, Chinese inspectors were able to visit ABP Bandon but protesters in Kepak Athleague stopped the visiting delegation yesterday.

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In a statement from Kepak, it says it met with senior leaders of the Beef Plan Movement (BPM) late on Saturday night and the importance of getting Chinese approval to the site was "discussed and clearly understood.

"Management arranged for the delivery of 90 cattle to the plant this morning, but on arrival were met with up to 40 protesters who illegally blockaded the entrance and refused to allow any livestock trucks pass despite the existence of a High Court injunction preventing such blockades and intimidation."

It said local Gardai arrived but failed to secure safe passage for any of the hauliers despite the blockade being illegal.

Kepak Athleague management then spoke with several of the protesters but were informed that there was no spokesperson for the group and that no truck would be passing the illegal blockade.

The man was arrested for "breaches of the Public Order Act" and Gardai said investigations are ongoing.

Tense scenes were also reported at the Kildare Meats plant on Sunday when protesters alleged that trucks were driven into them hitting a child's buggy in the process, as hauliers attempted to get access to the plant.

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A video recording from the scene shows a child's buggy apparently stuck under the front of a turning truck and another truck appear to drive at a group of men.

However, in the video, a man connected to the Kildare Chilling meat-processing plant in Kildare town, claimed there was no child in the buggy.

Under court orders protesters are not permitted to physically block trucks entering meat plants.

Amid the ongoing protests, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has met with protesting farmers on Saturday and warned that the resolution to the cattle price dispute will only be found around the negotiating table and not in meat plant protests or court injunctions.

Message

In another development, Beef Plan Movement chairman Hugh Doyle circulated a message on Sunday through the movement's WhatsApp groups.

In it, he apologised to members of the group for allowing himself to "become disconnected from the real issues facing grassroots farmers".

He said the group has farmer members who are prepared to risk everything for fair trade and he called on the Minister for Agriculture to get factory owners and retailers around a table to "forge a future for everyone".

However, the message was not welcomed by all members and some who criticised Doyle and the actions of the Beef Plan leadership were removed from some of the groups.

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