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Leo Varadkar on beef protests: 'We need to see the task force do its job'

Farmers began protesting outside the Dept. of Agriculture claiming the meat industry has not held up its end of the bargain

Image: Leah Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has condemned the actions of farmers who blocked representatives of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) from entering a meeting of the new beef task force on Monday. 

The task force was established as part of a deal made between farming and meat industry reps last month in a bid to end the weeks long protests outside meat factories. 

On Monday, the task force was scheduled to begin its first meetings with representatives from MII at the Department of Agriculture, but was stopped at the entrance of the building by farmers who say the industry has not held up its end of the bargain. 

Farmers claim that three people are still facing legal action from meat processors following the protests despite an agreement that farmers would drop the protests in exchange for the withdrawal of all actions. 

Today, Varadkar said “aggression and violence” is not the means to resolve any outstanding issues. 

“We need to see the task force getting to work and do its job, and that’s why I was very disappointed to see the scenes on the TV the other day, of people impeded from doing their day’s work – being jostled outside that building. I don’t think that’s the way to go. 

“Aggression and violence is never justified, and we should never stop people from going about their daily work. It’s definitely not the way forward. 

“The agreement brokered by Minister Creed is a good one… and will give farmers the bargaining power that they never had before, particularly when it comes to beef prices and the beef industry.”

Minister Michael Creed announced two weeks ago that former Department of Agriculture secretary-general, Michael Dowling will head up the task force. 

On the agenda will be a review of the price farmers get for beef in Ireland – the issue at the centre of the recent dispute – and the ways in which farmer’s concerns can be relieved. 

Farmers began protesting back in July over the amount they were being paid by the industry for their produce. 

The protests later escalated to blockades at a number of plants, forcing dozens of meat factories to wind down their operations as no trucks could get in or out. 

The factories also reported temporary lay-offs of staff while the protests were ongoing. 

Minister Creed intervened later in the dispute and held a number of sessions with both sides of the dispute seeking a resolution. 

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