A scene from one of the protests at Kepak in Kilbeggan last week.

Dispute over factory protests intensifies

The war of words between beef farmers and the factories over the ongoing protests at meat plans has intensified this evening.

The Beef Plan Movement, the organisation behind the ongoing protests at meat plants around the country, said it is “disappointed and frustrated” by the position adopted by Minister Creed and Meat Industry Ireland (MII), in seeking the protests to be suspended as a precondition of him meeting with the group.

The Beef Plan Movement said it had made clear from the outset that it would not call off protests in order to begin talks.

It is clear that Minister Creed or his advisors are not listening,” as according to the chairman of the Beef Plan Movement’s western region Eoin Donnelly, “the precondition that protests must be called off to allow talks to happen is not something that we’re prepared to accept.”

Meanwhile, Meat Industry Ireland (MII), which represents the business interests of the beef and lamb processing sector in Ireland, said it is “extremely disappointed” that an initiative brokered by the Minister to bring together the full resources of the State and all the beef sector stakeholders was rejected by Beef Plan, who refused to participate.

It added that because of Beef Plan blockades, and the refusal to enter talks brokered by the Minister, businesses have, “as a last resort, been left with no choice other than to seek legal remedy in an effort to prevent Beef Plan from causing further damage to the Irish beef industry.”

Responding Beef Plan said, in a statement, that the threat of legal action from large wealthy international corporations “does not bode well for their own corporate social responsibility and reputation.”

It described protected closures of factories as “unfortunate for all concerned” but insisted it was a HR matter for factory management.

The statement said: “Beef Plan farmers have repeatedly told government that rural Ireland is heavily dependent on beef farmers and factory personnel need to manage volatility in the market better, to ensure sustainable future for farmers and all relevant stakeholders. Pushing down the price of beef is foolhardy and detrimental to our industry.

Finally, as a matter of urgency, the Beef Plan call on Minister Creed to enact the current EU directive on unfair practices into Irish legislation,” the Beef Plan Movement concluded.

Earlier in the evening, MII accepted the Minister’s invitation to attend the meeting despite the serious intimidation and outright illegality its members have faced over the past twelve days of the Beef Plan blockades of meat plants.

The MII statement said it acknowledges the right of suppliers to organise a peaceful protest; however the “unlawful behaviour of some protestors at certain sites” has caused significant and irreparable damage to the beef industry.

It said “continued intimidation” of fellow farmer suppliers, company employees, government assigned veterinarians and other service providers including hauliers is unacceptable.

And it said as a result of the blockades, companies have been forced to lay off employees with more expected to be laid off in the coming days as operations grind to a halt.

It said, as of now, the blockades have been responsible for the closure of some 14 plants while many other plants are now operating well below capacity.

It said the blockades also increase the risk of businesses losing customers they have supplied and developed over the past 20 years due to issues surrounding continuity of supply.

And it added that the blockages by Beef Plan are “creating serious health and safety risks” and that the industry fears the potential for a serious accident or injury.