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Farmers block industry representatives from entering first taskforce meeting

A newly established beef task force was due to meet this morning to examine the future of the beef industry in Ireland.

Protesters at the Department of Agriculture this morning.
Protesters at the Department of Agriculture this morning.
Image: Stephen McDermott

Updated Oct 14th 2019, 1:32 PM

REPRESENTATIVES FROM MEAT Industry Ireland have been blocked from entering the Department of Agriculture in Dublin this morning. 

A newly established beef task force was due to meet this morning to examine the future of the beef industry in Ireland.

It is understood that when the MII representatives arrived, they were prevented from entering the building on Kildare Street and then left. 

Around 30 protesters remain outside the Department and gardaí are at the scene.

“Irish farmers are working for nothing. The Minister should meet with them and help to get them a fair and just price,” one of the protesters, Lester Gordon, told TheJournal.ie.

“Supermarkets should take a bit less from what they’re charging across the counter and ease the brunt on them. All the farmers want is fair play.”

The task force was agreed to by beef farmers and organisations, and representatives of the beef processing sector last month following weeks of protests.

It’s one of a number of measures, along with a new bonus payment for quality assured cattle, which was set out in a deal brokered by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. 

Farmers had accepted the deal in exchange for the meat industry dropping all legal actions brought against protesting farmers who blockaded the gates of processing plants. 

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has claimed there were some outstanding legal cases which had not yet been withdrawn, and would threaten the work of the task force in the coming weeks. 

“While farmers have upheld their side of the bargain, it is our understanding that written confirmation has not been received by those affected that would indicate the complete withdrawal of legal threats,” ICSA president Edmond Phelan said. 

“ICSA does not want to see the work of the task force undermined by this and we would urge the minister to seek clarity from the meat processors on the issue.”

Last week, Creed announced Michael Dowling, a former Department of Agriculture secretary general, was appointed as the independent chairman to lead the group. 

He said the agreement was made “with a two strand-approach that aims to provide immediate financial benefits direct to beef farmers and adress longer-term structural issues”.

In a statement this afternoon, the Department said that members of the Taskforce were prevented from attending the meeting following “altercations” out the Department. 

“The Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed TD has condemned this morning’s incidents,” the department said in a statement. 

Said Creed: “It is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef industry that the work of the Taskforce goes ahead.

“The Taskforce’s remit is to monitor the implementation of the actions arising from the agreement reached on 15 September and offers the most viable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders.

“It was a great pity that farm representatives were not in a position to air the legitimate concerns of farmers at the Taskforce,” he said. 

With reporting by Stephen McDermott

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