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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 1 April, 2020
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Farmers warn of further 'civil disobedience' as dozens of tractors shut down busy Dublin streets

It follows a similar protest in November when dozens of farmers also arrived on tractors.

FARMERS ARE WARNING that more protests and further “civil disobedience” as they drove dozens of tractors into Dublin city centre this afternoon in a protest over the price of beef. 

It follows a similar protest in November, when dozens of farmers also arrived on tractors to protest the price they are paid by the industry for their produce.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed brokered a deal between farmers and industry representatives last September, and a beef task force was set up late last year to examine the price of beef as well as other issues. 

The task force has met twice so far but farmers have warned that it is not enough to pacify the concerns around the price of beef, insisting more protests and unrest is being planned for the coming months. 

“There’s been no progress made since the task force has been set up. It’s just a talking shop really. It’s just all meetings, meetings, meetings. The base price of beef has to go up and that’s the bottom line,” Kevin Murphy, a farmer from Wexford said. 

“[That deal] wouldn’t be worth the paper that it’s written on. Minister Creed doesn’t, and none of them really, give a damn about the farmers. 

“I think it’s going to take more. We’re not going to get anywhere until the government is afraid of farmers. In France, the farmers come out with a slurry tank on the main streets. The farmers burn tires on the streets. I think it’s going to have to go further than this. 

It’ll take major civil disobedience before the government wakes up. A lot of lads wouldn’t like to see it. No one wants to see it go to that but if it has to go to that, then it’s the only way. 

Murphy said he understands that shutting down busy city centre streets was an inconvenience for the public but said farmers felt like they had no other choice. 

“We don’t want to be here. We’ve better things to be at. It’s costing us serious money to come up here. It costs us €200 to fill up a tractor for the day. 

“We have better things to be at but we have no other choice. This is the last resort. We have no other option unless we cause a civil disobedience, it’s on the only option.”

Streets including Kildare Street, Molesworth Street, Merrion Square and Pearse Street have all been closed as a result of the protests today. 

Another farmer, James Thompson from Kildare, said politicians were not listening to the farming community when they voice their concerns. 

“They don’t ask the ordinary Joe Soap if this is working for you on the ground. They don’t ask ‘have you a living wage out of it?’, or if you’re on health waiting lists and so on, so until the politicians wake up and listen to their voters and to the people it affects, we’ll be back day in day out again. 

“This is probably my fourth time being back since October and really nothing has moved on. We have got an awareness but we haven’t got action,” he said. 

“I do buy into the task force because it’s a way of getting both sides talking and getting together. But there’s no point in talking and smiling and not having action. This particular minister, I feel, hasn’t a clue. He’s totally out of touch with what’s happening in the real world.”

In response to today’s protest, Minister Creed said: “I am very aware that the beef sector has experienced very challenging times with a sustained period of low prices, Brexit uncertainty and difficult market conditions – which is why this Government is deeply committed to supporting and developing Ireland’s Beef sector.

“I want to see a very strong, robust and viable suckler sector that delivers a reliable and good income for farmers.

“Government cannot legally have any role to play in determining the price beef farmers get from the factories but I want to see an increase in the price being paid to farmers, so that our farmers are receiving a price that is in line with the EU average.”

On the campaign trail

Meanwhile, former Fine Gael candidate and independent candidate in the upcoming General Elecion, Verona Murphy was on the campaign trail at the protest today and spoke to farmers about their concerns. 

“Rural Ireland have a voice in yourselves,” she told farmers adding “46% of the population lives here in Dublin. That’s what the mainstream parties are banking on and getting the few TDs elected in the country. 

“Well the 46% should be combined with the majority of rural Ireland independents giving a balance in the country. You need rural, urban balance, not disconnect.”

Some farmers took issue with the fact Murphy previously ran as a candidate for Fine Gael in last year’s by-elections, and challenged her on the matter.

In response, she said she was silenced while running as a Fine Gael candidate and that she plans to represent farmers and rural voices in the upcoming election. 

Peadar Tóibín, Aontú leader, also addressed farmers today saying “the government has M50 vision” and suggesting that the rural Ireland was being neglected. 

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