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Saturday 16 December 2017

First furious farmers, then skipping Santas – it's all in a day's protesting for the Taoiseach

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny came under attack from hundreds of protesters as two separate protests took place outside his constituency office.

Close to 300 farmers protested outside the office in Castlebar, Co Mayo yesterday, urging him to reverse some of the €90m in farm spending cuts announced in the Budget.

"We're here to make it very clear to the Taoiseach that he needs to pull in Minister Coveney and Minister Burton to make it very clear to them they do not understand the West of Ireland and do not know what we have to live with," said IFA member Paddy Diffley.

Michael Higgins, also of the IFA, said farmers where already operating under the tightest margins and questioned why Mr Coveney had imposed further cuts.

"The answer is because we don't have a Croke Park agreement to protect our income like the civil servants have," he claimed.

Young and old farmers vented their frustration at the Taoiseach, with many saying they felt ''betrayed'' by their fellow county man.

Ronan Kelly from Ballina said farmers could not sustain working 70-hour weeks for what amounted to a minimum wage.

"We've had two economically illiterate Taoisigh – Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen – and now Enda Kenny is going for the hat-trick of shame. We had much higher hopes for him," added Mr Kelly.

Dermot McDonnell (24), from Swinford, said he feared he would have to give up farming.

"I've been working it all my life but you just can't live off it now. It's got to the stage where I might have to leave it to find work elsewhere.

"I'll stay as long as I can and I'm hoping it won't come to it but things have got so bad."

Later in the day a small group of skipping Santas took their place in front of Mr Kenny's office. Dr Clara Fischer of the Irish Feminist Network said they were protesting against another harsh Budget.

"We decided to skip here today because so many families will have to skip Christmas this year," she said.

Calling for equality-proofing of future Budgets, a practice adopted in other countries, Dr Fischer added: "We're being told equality proofing has to be sidelined because of our current economic situation but that is precisely why equality needs to be maintained."

Irish Independent

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