Since Friday morning, farmers from all over the Enniscorthy and Gorey areas have gathered at the site of the new M11 motorway between Ferns and Camolin to protest at their alleged treatment by the contractors responsible for the project, BAM Dragados.
The farmers pulled a trailer right across the new road and have vowed to keep it blocked until a solution is reached. Having entered a fourth day with the road block in place yesterday, no resolution was in sight and there were fears that the dispute may escalate.
This is not the first time that the farmers have protested in relation to the bypass works. Back in July, IFA members blocked access to the BAM site offices at Scarawalsh and, while things became quite heated, all parties eventually sat at the negotiation table. Among the major issue for farmers operating along the length of the bypass are drainage, access to lands and water and electric fences for stock. The IFA called off the protest the last time out after BAM agreed to facilitate them on a number of these issues, however, now it seems as though we're back to square one with the farmers demanding action once again.
'We were working away as best we could on the issues after last time,' said IFA County Chairman James Kehoe. 'We were getting small bits done here and there initially, but in the last month or two there has been complete disengagement on the part of BAM once again. There seems to be a complete lack of ability to get even the smallest things over the line.'
This latest protest was spearheaded by farmer Henry Deacon whose land is situated near where the road is blocked at Knockrobin. Mr Deacon was said to have had major issues with drainage arising from the bypass and the IFA say that his land flooded back in June - something made all the more remarkable given the drought conditions. Major concerns were also expressed by the IFA over the safety of an underpass which was constructed to Mr Deacon's land and finally having had enough, it was decided to block the road on Friday morning until a solution was reached.
Mr Kehoe says that the action is not just about Mr Deacon's farm.
'The contractors have said that they will only discuss the Deacon issue,' he said. 'That's not good enough though. There's loads of other issues that need to be sorted. If we had to block the road to get every little job done we'd be at nothing. We don't take action like this lightly. It has to be a serious issue to spark this kind of action and it has the backing of the IFA right from the very top.'
An emergency meeting on the matter was held at the IFA centre on Friday night and the farmers are committed to dig their heels in and block the road until a satisfactory outcome is forthcoming.
It is believed that organisers are also looking at other sites along the bypass to take action and block if their demands are not met. A sub-committee was formed following the meeting and Chairman John Murphy has vowed action will continue.
'We're not interfering with the public here,' he said. 'That's the last thing we want to do. We can't go on like this though. It's just problem after problem. We already have a list of 20 to 25 issues that BAM have said they'll look at and more are coming up all the time. For the most part, they're all very similar. Most of them are about drainage, access and water and electric fences for stock. We won't stir until these issues are resolved once and for all.'