The Government faces the prospect of a large protest on the streets of Dublin over its climate plan after the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), the largest farm organisation, told members and their families to gather in the capital a fortnight from Sunday.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said the organisation chose to protest on a Sunday "to limit disruption to the people of Dublin". The gathering on November 21st coincides with the Ireland-Argentina international rugby match and it comes at a time when city traders hope for a Christmas shopping boost to business.
The IFA called the protest on Wednesday as the Government finalised targets for emissions cuts from the farm sector, by far the most politically sensitive element of the new action plan to achieve ambitious climate targets in coming years. The plan is scheduled to be published on Thursday after a Cabinet meeting.
“We want to work with Government on climate action, but there has to be real engagement. Setting targets without any regard for the consequences, or any supports, won’t work,” said Mr Cullinan.
Amid growing pressure to curb agricultural emissions that has led to farmer anxiety about cuts to food production, the IFA aims to highlight sector’s economic contribution.
“The farming and food sector employs 300,000 people across the country and contributed €13 billion in exports in 2020. Outside of Dublin and the mid-east region, the sector provides between 10 per cent and 14 per cent of employment. This is being forgotten in a rush to sterilise Irish farming,” said Mr Cullinan.
"If we produce less food in Ireland, more will be produced in countries with a higher carbon footprint, which will increase global warming. We believe that with the right supports, we can reduce methane emissions by using available technologies. But all this talk of cutting the so-called 'national herd' is really worrying farmers."
Farm families are fearful for the future, he added.
“We hear all of these high-level targets being announced, but we have no clarity about what this will mean at farm level. I’m inviting all farm families to attend the event.
“Farmers have families too and they are very conscious of the climate challenge and the need for farmers to play their part. But it can’t decimate our incomes. It must provide a future that is economically and socially sustainable, as well as being environmentally sustainable.”