Farmers threaten to blockade supermarket distribution centres

‘There will be no turkeys for Christmas,’ says one farmer, departing Dublin after protests

Farmers protest over beef prices     at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Cllr Padraig Brady

Farmers protest over beef prices at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Cllr Padraig Brady

 

Farmers protesting in Dublin have said they will blockade supermarket distribution centres in the run-up to Christmas if progress is not made on beef prices and other issues.

“There will be no turkeys for Christmas,” said one farmer, as tractors began to leave the capital on Wednesday afternoon after two days of disruption near Leinster House.

Many of those involved in the latest beef demonstrations maintain they have no formal organisational structure, a tactic designed to sidestep any potential legal action.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed met briefly with two groups of representatives on Wednesday and was given two separate letters setting out demands.

One, the Independent Farmers of Ireland (IFOI), described frustration “with the lack of action by our current Government to support an industry in distress”.

Shortly afterwards, five representatives of individual farmers handed in correspondence at the Department of Agriculture offices seeking acknowledgment of a “crisis” in the sector.

Both groups appeared to have broadly common agendas – as well as commitments to rural Ireland, they are seeking an immediate end to injunctions against two farmers by C&D Food in Longford and the resumption of the Beef Taskforce.

Both these issues relate to prolonged blockades of beef processing and other facilities earlier this year, the result of tensions over the price received by farmers.

Dispute

Legal actions were aimed at snuffing out the blockades while the subsequent creation of a taskforce was to oversee the implementation of an agreement reached during talks to resolve the dispute.

Two of those legal actions remain in place, taken against individuals by C&D Food, a pet food manufacture, and farm organisations will not co-operate with the taskforce until they are withdrawn.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government could not increase beef prices which, he said, are in line with the European average.

Farmers have also said the financial burden of carbon tax is a major issue which, if not addressed, could prompt further protest actions from December 15th.

Tipperary farmer Daniel Long, one of the five individual representatives, said they wanted commitments the taskforce would meet by mid-January. No progress on that and other issues would bring farmer blockades to major supermarket distribution centres around Ireland, he said. This would be designed to affect supermarket supplies in the run-up to Christmas.

Fellow protestor and farming contractor James Geoghegan, said “there will be no turkeys for Christmas. If we block them down don’t blame us, it will be because there has been no progress.”

Disrupt traffic

John Dallon, another of the five representatives, said the Minister was told “we’d 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.”

The potential for lines of tractors dispatched to disrupt traffic on Dublin’s busy M50 ring road is also still in play, the men said.

This week’s protest has had no involvement from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), the Beef Plan Movement, or any other organisation although many of their members have taken part in an individual capacity.

Many were visibly angry during an exchange with Minister Michael Creed on Kildare Street on Wednesday morning, particularly when he reiterated comments that staff at C&D had been threatened. Many protestors have called for him to apologise.

Meanwhile, asked if it was acceptable for the farmers to lock down a major section of Dublin, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said Irish society was “liberal democratic” and people had a right to protest, even in large vehicles causing disruption to others.

Asked about threats to cut off food supply routes into Dublin, he said: “They should be very careful of their vocabulary and the way they speak and their pronouncements because that just inflames the situation and they shouldn’t seek to do that.”