SIT-DOWN PROTEST Tom Byrne, from Cloonfad, makes the tea while William Frayne, Ballyhaunis, looks out from their trailor, parked up outside Dawn Meats, Ballyhaunis, during the ongoing farmer protests outside meat factories. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Farmers protesting outside the gates of Dawn Meats in Ballyhaunis are willing to wait there ‘as long as it takes’.
Attempts to reopen talks between all sides are still ongoing after last Monday’s announcement by Meat Industries Ireland (MII) that they would not enter talks with the farmers while blockades of factories across the country continued.
Since then, 3,000 factory staff around the country have been temporarily laid off but the farmers who The Mayo News spoke to yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon in Ballyhaunis were remaining steadfast in their convictions.
“There is talk about people being let go from factories but if we hadn’t done this, there would have been a constant, gradual drop in farmers and there wouldn’t be a word about it,” said Dermot McGuire, a farmer from Tulrahan, Claremorris.
“But, as every farmer stops farming, one by one, it has a knock-on effect for the co-op in this town, for a whole host of businesses from farming-related industries to supermarkets, restaurants and pubs, who all benefit from farmers.
“We’ve nothing to lose. If we back down, we are back where we started and that’s not sustainable. We will wait here as long as it takes,” he added.
As the farmers are speaking, a Christmas tree is being decorated at the protest, an indication by the farmers of how long they are willing to wait.
“Meat Industries Ireland say they won’t go into talks while we are here. Well we are going nowhere, there’s plenty left in us. We’re here for the long haul,” William Frayne, from Bargarriff, Ballyhaunis, said.
Andy Nyland from Agloragh, Ballyhaunis used to work in the meat factory in Ballyhaunis and has seen the prices of everything go up in his 40 years farming, except the price of cattle.
“The price of everything is gone up – land, feed, supplies – but the price we get for our cattle has remained the same.
“Up to now what has happened is we’ve went up with the IFA protesting in Dublin, we’ve got a 20c increase and as soon as we turn around and head for home, it starts to go down again and is gone within six months,” he said.
Aidan Grier is among a group of farmers who have travelled from Ballycastle to join the protest. The recent Mercosur trade deal with South America rankles him.
“Now with Mercesur, beef is coming in from South American with no age limits and no traceability and we have to compete with that. How is that meant to be fair?”
MORE See next Tuesday’s Mayo News for more on this story.