Rally brings 20,000 into city on 'Day of Action'
AN ESTIMATED 20,000 farmers marched through Dublin city centre in a demonstration organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association to highlight grievances.
The “Day of Action” was twice as large as predicted by the organisers and was the biggest protest held by farmers in 14 years.
IFA president John Bryan said it was a fight for the future of family farming. “I am well aware these are hard times for everybody. Incomes are down everywhere and they’re back sharply in farming this year,” he said.
“We all want a better future for our families. To get out of this, Ireland must focus on its strengths,” he told the crowd when it gathered outside the Dáil after marching from Merrion Square.
He urged Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to fight for a full Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) budget and for policies that supported productive farmers.
The EU Commission is proposing a reform of the Cap that would change the way the annual single farm payment is made. Instead of basing it on past production, it is planning to move towards a flat payment per hectare. Department of Agriculture research has suggested that more farmers will gain than lose under this proposal, but Mr Bryan said active farmers would lose out and this would affect food production.
He said thousands of farmers would see their payments drop by 30 to 60 per cent.
“The Cap is not just about farmers. It supports 300,000 jobs right across Ireland and 40 million jobs in Europe,” he said. The seven-year Cap deal is worth €1.6 billion per year to this State.
“Our message for Taoiseach Enda Kenny is you must hold the line on the Cap budget which will be decided within two months and if that means flying out to meet Angela Merkel it has to be done,” he said.
The protest also highlighted farmers’ concerns of further cutbacks in the upcoming budget. Mr Bryan said farm schemes were cut by 17 per cent in last year’s budget, while Government departments experienced a cut of 3.5 per cent. “These cuts have hit low-income farmers especially hard.”
More than 200 buses ferried farmers from all over the State to the protest. Some people rose as early as 4am to travel from places such as the Beara peninsula, Valentia island and Achill.
IFA general secretary Bryan Barry said a truck on Merrion Square had dispatched some 10,000 sandwiches to farmers as they prepared to march.
The protest was led by a convoy of farm vehicles, including seven tractors, a combine harvester and a milk lorry.
Farmer Shane McKeon from Leitrim carried hay on his back to highlight the difficult harvest farmers had experienced.
One placard said “no farming, no food, no food, nobody”, while a young boy in a peaked cap held a sign asking: “Is it Australia for me?”