Beef sector deadlock continues as protest force closure of 12 plants

Some protestors have told the High Court they will not obstruct meat processors

Independent farmers and supporters protesting outside Meadow Meats in Rathdowney, Co. Laois, on Wednesday. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Independent farmers and supporters protesting outside Meadow Meats in Rathdowney, Co. Laois, on Wednesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

There is no indication of a resumption of talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the beef sector, as a number of protesters gave commitments to the High Court on Friday they would not obstruct the work of meat processing plants.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has contacted the main farm organisations, urging them to get involved in diffusing the situation.

But Irish Farmers Association president Joe Healy said the minister should “stop telling farm organisations what to do” and instead instruct the meat factories to come forward with proposals to improve the income of beef farmers.

One of the difficulties being faced is that talks on beef prices could be seen as being in breach of the competition laws. “We cannot talk about price. It is against the law,” said a source close to the dispute.

Industry and other sources said low beef prices are a reflection of what is happening in the European marketplace.

They also said the major UK buyers are easing off on placing orders for Irish beef, given the approaching deadline for Brexit.

Twelve meat plants have closed operations because of the protests, according to Meat Industry Ireland. A wall at a Liffey Meats plant, in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, suffered damage on Friday when a farmer apparently used a tractor to remove a copy of a High Court injunction that had been attached to it.

The High Court was told permanent orders restraining trespass and intimidation could be made with the consent of named protesters who had taken part in beef-price protests at Dawn Meats factories.

Similar orders were made on consent against protesters blockading plants owned by ABP and Slaney Meats.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan was told a compromise had been reached between named protesters and Dawn Meats, ABP and Slaney Meats, companies that earlier this week obtained temporary restraints against protesters blocking their plants.

Lyndon MacCann SC, for Dawn, said a motion seeking to commit to prison protester Séamus (otherwise Mex) Delahunty, of Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, could be struck out by consent.

He said orders permanently restraining Mr Delahunty and Declan Ryan, Liam Cunningham, James Kennedy, John Hassett, Michael Power, James O’Shea and Tom Fitzpatrick could be made by the court by consent of the named defendants, with no orders for costs.

The orders restrain them from interfering with access to or egress from Dawn factories at Grannagh, Co Waterford; Meadow Meats, Rathdowney, Co Laois; Hazel Hill, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo; Ardnageehy, Charleville, Co Cork, and Greenhills, Beaupark, Slane, Co Meath.

It is expected protests will continue outside meat plants next week though it may be that blocking of cattle entering the plants, and meat exiting, may ease.

One of the many issues arising in the dispute is that farmers lose out significantly if their cattle are not slaughtered before they reach 30 months. Sources said some farmers in this situation had been able to get their cattle into plants that were otherwise blocked.