Picture - ICSA
Well in excess of 3,000 farmers, young and old, made their way Dáil Éireann in Dublin on Wednesday, July 10, in protest of the proposed Mercosur deal.
The protest, which was organised by the Beef Plan Movement (BPM), with the aim of highlighting the grave concerns among farmers with what’s happening in the agriculture sector. Beef Plan members used the opportunity to call on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to rescind his support for Phil Hogan’s reappointment as European Commissioner.
BPM also issued a list of 7 demands to Minister Creed on topics such as Mercosur, live exports, movement rules, feedlots, transparency from processors, the meat market observatory, demanding a response in writing. They are also calling for the official recognition of the Beef Plan movement.
Farming figureheads from all corners of the sector were in attendance, such as the recently elected ICSA president, Edmond Phelan, who said the Mercosur deal had absolutely nothing to do with beef.
Edmond Phelan, ICSA, said, “We are here to demonstrate against the Irish government and also Brussels.
“This deal really has nothing to do with beef, it is about selling German cars and pharmaceuticals into South America,”
“We are just collateral damage, but we are not going to stand by and let it happen.” he continued.
LISTEN: “If any supermarket thinks they’ll sell Brazilian beef we’ll close them down” @ICSAIreland president Edmond Phelan speaking outside Dail today against Mercosur deal #ICSA #FIghtingForFarmers @Beefplan pic.twitter.com/7pzZuymKQZ— ICSA (@ICSAIreland) July 10, 2019
Eamon Corley of the Beef Plan movement also spoke at the protest, dubbing Mercosur the 'last straw'.
“Rural Ireland is beef farming." he said.
“It’s the last straw this Mercosur deal and farmers are not putting up with it.
“We have three thousands farmers here today from all across the west and all over Ireland. We are saying no.”
Famed Kerry politician, Michael Healy Rae, called on people to keep a close eye on their local politicians.
“Watch what your TDs are doing, are they going to stand with the farmers or are they going to stand with the Taoiseach who told us 3 weeks ago he was going to reduce his carbon footprint by stopping eating beef,” he said when addressing the crowds.
As well as lining the streets on the day, farmers also discarded their now ‘redundant’ wellies on the street. The ever passionate Michael Fitzmaurice then took to the mic, calling the protest the beginning of a rural revival.
“In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, when there was no Mercs to be sold and no houses to be built, the country relied on ye.” he said.
“Today is the beginning, the beginning of the rural revival.
“Today we stand up and there is more of this to come...Let them hear it in there, we will not be walked over...Tell them f*ck off with Mercosur.”
The protest coincided with a Dáil debate on the Mercosur taking place, with Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald issuing a motion to block the deal.
“We produce the best beef in the World, why in the name of God would you open up our markets to sub standard produce?” she questioned Taoiseach Varadkar.
To which Mr Varadkar replied, “When you produce the best beef in the world, you can find a market for that beef and you can get a good price for it.
“We need to make sure those markets are open to those farmers as well.”