Farmers end Dublin blockade but warn of further protests

Last tractors leave St Stephen’s Green on Wednesday afternoon after two day of protests

There has been a stand-off between gardai and farmer protestors at Merrion Square as gardaí attempted to prevent the tractors from exiting the area and driving towards the Dáil. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Farmers lifted their blockade in Dublin city centre on Wednesday but vowed to escalate their protests if their demands are not met.

Members of the 100-strong protest group began leaving the city centre in their tractors on Wednesday afternoon. All roads which had been blocked around St Stephen’s Green have now re-opened.

The protest ended not long after various demands were issued to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed by two separate representative groups.

One of those groups has said it will target food distribution centres in mid-December if no apparent progress has been made in addressing beef prices generally and, more specifically, in resuming the Beef Task Force, a body established last month to oversee the implementation of sector reforms.

The targeting of distribution centres would be designed to disrupt retail food supplies in the run up to Christmas.

Farmers listen to speeches on St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph by Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times
Farmers listen to speeches on St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph by Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times

The protesters, who are mostly beef farmers, are campaigning over the price they are being paid for their animals by beef processors. The current protests follow blockades at beef processing factories over two months this summer.

The farmers have said they want injunctions against individual farmers - Fine Gael councillor Paraic Brady and Colm Leonard - dating back to the blockades of factories to be lifted and for the beef market taskforce to be resumed.

They are also seeking an apology from Mr Creed after he told the Dáil on Tuesday there had been death threats against senior management in a meat company where an injunction against blockading farmers is still in place. Farmers gathered in Dublin said there were no such death threats made, and they called for the resignation of Mr Creed with chants of “out, out, out”.

Mr Creed told the Dáil that he was informed directly about the alleged death threats.

Mr Creed said: “I have never made, and I think that this should be clearly stated, the connection or allegations that it is in any way those who protested or those who injuncted involved in that process but that is a further complication.”

Cllr Brady, who is subject to an injunction by C&D Foods, has acknowledged that a complaint was lodged with the Garda Pulse system about threats to the management of the company.

But Mr Brady said no report or statement was subsequently made and called on Mr Creed to correct the Dáil record.

“I want to make it completely clear that I did not make any death threat and would condemn any such threats,” Mr Brady told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.

“We don’t want to be branded as thugs.”

Tractors parked around St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times
Tractors parked around St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Five farmers, representing the protestors gathered, met with the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed just before 9am in the foyer of his department on Kildare Street.

John Dallon, a farmer from Castledermott, Co Kildare who was among those who met with the Minister on Wednesday, said they had a “good talk” with Mr Creed but received no commitments.

“We told him [Minister Creed] we would be back on December 15th to hit the distribution centres. I know it’s coming up to Christmas but if we don’t get what we want, that’s what we’re going to have to do...we need to build trust in the Minister.”

Mr Dallon said the Minister had explained to the representatives that “he doesn’t have the power to lift these injunctions”.

“We’re looking for a better price for our beef...we can’t take any more. We’re slaves to the land and were being drove off of the land,” he added.

Mr Dallon said the protestors decided not to block the M50 “because we had no structures in place” but added that it remains a possibility.

The farmers had placed tractors on a number of roads including Stephen’s Green East and North, Kildare Street and Dawson Street. At Stephen’s Green, the road was completely blocked off by tractors outside the Shelbourne Hotel.

Tractors parked around St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times
Tractors parked around St Stephen’s Green during the second day of a protest by farmers. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Earlsfort Terrace was also closed, along with Leeson Street outbound.

Dublin Bus said a number of diversions were put in place but Luas and Dart services operated as normal.