'Words do not pay the bills,' say farmers as they bring beef price protest to Dublin

Shauna Smith (9), from Cavan, among tractors parked on Merrion Square in Dublin today.
By Evelyn Ring
Irish Examiner Reporter

“Words do not pay the bills.”

That's what Tipperary farmer Daniel Long, one of the organisers of the tractor protest in Dublin, told Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed.

The minister played a leading role in establishing the beef task force late last year to examine the price of beef as well as other issues.

“Price still remains a problem. Farmers are not making a living from what they are producing,” said Mr Long.

Beef prices in Ireland are currently 50c a kilo behind the UK and 23c behind the rest of Europe.

"At a very minimum Irish beef farmers should be on a par with Europe. We are told that the beef task force is working towards addressing the price issue but farmers can't wait.”

Another farmer, Geraldine Doyle from Gorey, Co. Wexford, said there would be no advance warning the next time there was a tractor protest because nobody was listening to them.

Ms Doyle and her husband, John, who have a beef, sheep and tillage farm, cannot get a decent price for their animals.

“We're not looking for huge profits; we are looking for a fair price but we aren't getting it,” she said.

Ms Doyle, a mother of seven, said more farmers would have joined the protest but it was a busy time of year with cows calving and sheep lambing.

Election posters on a lamp post on Merrion Square as tractors are parked around Dublin during today
Election posters on a lamp post on Merrion Square as tractors are parked around Dublin during today's farmers protest.

“It takes a lot for farmers to come up here, especially those who came on the tractors – they have been up until all hours this morning.”

She was critical of the way the protest was managed with over 50 tractors and several jeeps brought into the city by farmers put to one side of the roadway.

“We are all packed in like sardines. When farmers protested last November they came up in the middle of the night so it had more of an impact.”

Chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, Sean McNamara, who has a large sheep and cattle farm in Lismacaffrey, Co. Westmeath, was one of the many farmers who joined the protest in a personal capacity.

Kevin Murphy, a farmer from Wexford, taking part in the beef price protest in Dublin today.
Kevin Murphy, a farmer from Wexford, taking part in the beef price protest in Dublin today.

“We will be back protesting on the streets of Dublin if the next government does not deliver what farmers want,” he warned.

Patrick Kent, a mixed farmer from New Ross, Co. Wexford, said there were many farmers whose income was less than €10,000 per year which was not sustainable.

“The price of beef at the moment is about €3.70 a kilo max for heifers,” said Mr Kent, who believes some factories are using the outdated beef pricing grid to cut the price paid to farmers.

“We are victims of the grid and it needs to be adjusted,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said farmers should be paid the maximum price that the market would allow.

“While I acknowledge any organisation's legitimate right to peaceful protest, positive engagement through producer organisations and the beef market taskforce is in my view the best way to progress farmers' interests,” said Mr Creed.

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