Order sought by beef processor could see protesters jailed for contempt

IFA tells court farmers involved may not be aware of consequences for breaching ruling

One of the largest beef processors in the State has sought an application that could see individual beef protesters jailed for being in contempt of court. Image: iStock.

One of the largest beef processors in the State has sought an application that could see individual beef protesters jailed for being in contempt of court. Image: iStock.

 

One of the largest beef processors in the State has sought an application that could see individual beef protesters jailed for being in contempt of court.

Dawn Meats, which secured an injunction against protesters earlier this week, sought a committal order on Wednesday in front of Mr Justice Senan Allen. The meat processor said protests at its plant in Grannagh near Waterford city, had escalated since it secured the injunction.

Mr Justice Allen heard that the application could be the first of many similar steps to jail individual protestors. Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) is also understood to be considering such an order. Kepak also secured an injunction in relation to protests at its plants on Wednesday.

Lyndon MacGann SC for Dawn Meats told the judge that the situation outside his client’s Grannagh plant had “intensified overnight”. Deliveries of cattle to the plant had been blocked onWednesday morning by protesters, who stood in front of vehicles and refused to move aside.

Mr MacCann said that trucks, which have nothing to do with beef processing, had also been refused access by the protesters. Dawn Meats sought permission to bring a motion seeking the attachment of one of the protesters and/or their committal to prison if they failed to comply with the injunction.

Failing to obey

He said some 60 people were believed to be involved in the protest at Grannagh, the identities of whom were currently unknown to the company. He said a Mr ‘Mex’ Delahunty had been aware of the injunction, and aware of the consequences of failing to obey the order.

Patrica Hill, counsel for the Irish Farmers Association, which is not a party to the proceedings, asked the court to consider putting a stay on any order that could see any of the protesters jailed.

She said the IFA was seeking time to engage with the parties and see if the situation could be resolved. The IFA had concerns whether the farmers involved in the protests were aware of the consequences of any breaches.

Mr Justice Allen, who noted what the IFA had said to the court, said he was mindful of the tensions involved and that the situation was most difficult. While he had no difficulty at all about talks taking place between the parties, there was no room for engagement or negotiations in a situation where court orders were being breached.

“Everybody who has had sight of the orders could understand what they mean,” Judge Allen said and, in the circumstances, the court was prepared to grant Dawn Meats permission to bring the attachment and committal proceedings which he made returnable to Friday’s sitting of the court.

Backlash

The grassroots Beef Plan movement warned that any moves to jail protesting beef farmers could provoke a backlash around the country. The organisation’s co-chair Eamon Corley predicted a “massive reaction countrywide” if farmers were jailed on foot of a committal order.

“Farmers will have to search in their souls and see what to do if that happens,” he said, adding that “there’s a lot of farmers in Beef Plan that want to be back on the picket line”.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed called yesterday on the protesting beef farmers to suspend pickets, and to return to the negotiating table. Talks between farming groups, Government organisations and the meat trade concluded last week with broad agreement on several areas.

Political sources said that views gathered from stakeholders on reconvening talks were mixed, with some participants dubious over what could be achieved.