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No more farmers protests 'in the near future' after criticism from restaurants and commuters

David Long said that there were no more Dublin tractor protests planned “for the near future”.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

NO MORE PROTESTS are planned for Dublin “in the near future” a farmer representative has said, following criticism from motorists and restaurants of yesterday’s tractor demonstration. 

Daniel Long of the Individual Farmers of Ireland group told Morning Ireland that “going to Dublin protesting is never taken lightly”, and that there were no more protests planned “in the near future”.

Farmers will instead lobby their local politicians during the election campaign and try to encourage them to make legislative changes, he said.

On Wednesday, scores of tractors drove to Stephen’s Green and parked in a line outside the Shelbourne and along the Green, blocking traffic. Gardaí had closed off Kildare Street, where the Dáil’s headquarters Leinster House is located, using bollards to block it off.

The procession of tractors began to leave the area yesterday, and drove onto the M50 at 4-5 km/h, resulting in tailbacks during the evening rush hour.

Commuters in Dublin yesterday morning and last night had complained of long delays to the already congested city centre.

tractor 610 Source: Sam Boal

When asked about why the protest was moved onto the M50, Long said:

“Well I suppose farmers were heading home. They wanted to highlight and focus people’s minds – there is a general election coming up.”

We probably see farmers issues hopefully foremost in rural people’s minds when they cast a vote at the ballot boxes.

He said that there had been similar protests around Europe in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

“While we accept that people were unhappy going home, I think that people need to realise that farmers are facing a very difficult situation and their very existence is on the line.” 

There have been two previous tractor protests held in Dublin, with the aim of highlighting rural issues in the capital, where the Dáil is also located.

Beef farmers have aimed to highlight that the price they are getting for their beef is 23 cent behind the EU average, and 50 cent behind the UK. This is despite Irish beef being a premium product, because of the way that cattle are reared and fed.

Farmers have a number of other issues they wish to raise too: their posters have borne slogans about vegan burgers and the carbon tax.

IMG-20200115-WA0012 Tractors parked on Stephen's Green on Wednesday night. Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

When asked what the aim of this protest was, Long said:

“I suppose protest by its very nature causes disruption, and like all protests we hope that it would lead to dialogue and dialogue would be the solving of this problem.”

A Beef Market Taskforce sitting at the moment to help solve the dispute, which mostly exists between beef farmers and meat processors, who farmers have accused of undercutting their trade.

“The decision to take this protest to Dublin was not taken lightly. Farmers are not guaranteed to make a profit, and it’s not because of a lack of expertise or skill, it’s because they’re not getting a fair price for their product.”

Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland also featured on Morning Ireland this morning, and said that the protest “made no sense” and hurt its members, who saw a dramatic fall in customers.

“Everybody has sympathy with the farmers, but the sympathy is waning after the type of protest that the farmers are engaging in.

They brought their tractors up to Dublin after the Dáil was dissolved – it made no sense to the consumer, to the voter, to our members who were suffering from a lack of footfall. 
We’re all suffering in business at the moment including the farmers and my sector as well but there are ways and means of making your protest.

He said that there had been a “huge amount of Garda resources” put into policing these protests, and said that this needed to be questioned.

January is a quiet month, but a lot of restaurants in that area had no customers whatsoever, and we are one of the largest purchasers of beef in Ireland.

Long said that although restaurants may have lost money yesterday, that “farmers are losing money every day of the week”.

“Restaurants like to promote that they buy local, but that local produce is at risk… farmers need to be able to make money out of it,” he said.

“Nobody is asking for a handout, they’re asking for a fair price.”

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