21 January 2000
Irish farmers lift blockade

IRISH farmers picketing meat factories have lifted their blockade at several plants after owners agreed to union demands.

Now the Irish Farmers Association is hoping that the owners of the other plants involved in the dispute will settle for the same deal.

The breakthrough in the ten-day confrontation came on Friday (Jan 21) when five meat factories said they would pay the 90p/lb for O-grade cattle demanded by the IFA.

Currently farmers receive around 82-84p/lb.

Earlier the Irish Meat Association, representing the slaughterers, backed down from an attempt to pass on to producers increases in veterinary inspection charges.

On Friday afternoon the IFA could not confirm if this concession formed part of the deal which has been struck.

The increase in abattoir charges from Ir3.74 to Ir5.50 sparked the dispute which also provided an outlet for farmers frustration over poor prices for cattle.

The IFA has accused the meat processors of operating as a cartel to keep prices artificially low and say they have made big margins on a record cattle kill at the expense of producers.

Protests continue at more than 30 other plants around the country.

A spokeswoman for the IFA said: “Were happy that weve made progress and settled the dispute at these particular plants.”

She said meetings were continuing with the other factories and hoped that a similar outcome could be achieved.

Plants where the dispute has been settled include; Galtee Meats, Charleville, Co Cork, Slaney Meats, of Bunclody, Wexford, Donegal Meats, Donegal, Honeyclover, at Freshford, Kilkenny, and Duffys at Gort, Galway.

The IFA dramatically withdrew all frontline support for the strike earlier this week after the High Court in Dublin increased daily fines for the action form Ir100,000 to Ir500,000.

The IFA removed all its staff and banners from the picket, apologised to the court and paid the Ir500,000 already owed. IFA president Tom Parlon, along with most of the IFA ruling council, resigned soon afterwards.

However, individual farmers risking heavy fines by continuing the action while the IFA has worked on securing a settlement at national level.