Irish farmers are being “foisted” with demands to cut carbon emissions at the same time as being portrayed as “the bad guys” in the conversation around climate change, a protest in Dublin city heard.
A motorcade of more than 80 tractors made the journey to Dublin city centre to protest outside Government Buildings on Sunday in opposition to the Climate Action Plan and reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan said the demonstration came at a "critical time", as farmers across the country were worried for the sector's future.
The lobby group had been trying “to get a reasonable position” from the Government for months, on both climate emission cuts and CAP, with little success, he said.
Commenting on the sector’s requirements to reduce carbon emissions, Mr Cullinan said agriculture was being “foisted” with a reduction of at least 22 per cent. “We have to question what it is for,” he told the crowd.
Irish agriculture is “being seen as the bad guys” in the debate around tackling climate change, despite having “one of the most efficient” grass-based systems in the world, he said.
The IFA president questioned what was the point in Irish farmers reducing their emissions, if other countries were not going to do the same. “If this Government is not going to get up off their backside, this campaign will continue,” he said.
John Keane (30), president of Macra na Feirme, who grew up on a dairy and beef farm in Co Laois, said young farmers faced "uncertainty" about their future like no other sector.
“We need solutions and we need policies that are favouring towards young farmers, rather than I suppose legislating us out of the sector,” he told The Irish Times.
Due to escalating Covid-19 infections, the IFA opted to protest by parking farm machinery opposite Government Buildings, rather than organise a large march.
As the last tractor pulled onto Merrion Square on Sunday afternoon, the organisers realised they had a problem – the parking had been too efficient.
There was also only a few inches between some of the vehicles parked at the back of the street, meaning there was too much open space at the top near the stage.
Several longer vehicles were scrambled to reverse up closer to the stage, while protesters from local IFA groups across the country holding banners and signs filled the remaining gap.
As the speeches began, the sandwiches packed for the day’s lunch began to emerge throughout the crowd.
Finbarr O’Rourke, a photographer hired by the IFA for the day, was hoisted up on a cherry picker to get aerial shots of the two rows of farming hardware.
The protest drew support from a small number of the Indian migrant community in Ireland, who arrived to hand out bottled water to the crowd.
Huge protests by farmers in India over the last year led to the reversal of attempted reforms in the country in recent days.
Amitog Singh, an IT worker in Dublin originally from a farming family in India, said he was attending the IFA protest to show solidarity.
“If the Government keep poking at us every five minutes we have to take a stand for ourselves … We heard about the protests going on back here in Ireland so we are here to support them in any way [or] shape we can,” he said.