20 January 2000
Talks fail to end Irish beef dispute

by Philip Clarke

ALL-NIGHT talks aimed at ending the dispute between the Irish Farmers Association and the meat factories have broken up without a resolution.

The ten-day-old dispute was sparked by slaughterers who imposed a flat rate charge of IR5.50 per animal to cover the cost of veterinary inspection fees.

Although this has now been lowered to its former level of 3.74, the IFA has accused the meat factories of operating a cartel to keep prices low.

The Irish Meat Association offered farmers a minimum 87.5p/lb for O grade carcasses, compared with the 82-84p/lb currently paid.

But farmers on the picket lines are holding out for 90p/lb, they said on Wednesday (19 January).

The Irish government has announced it is setting up an independent group to investigate pricing practices within the meat industry.

Meanwhile, the blockade of Irelands meat plants continues, with farmers bringing cattle slaughterings to a standstill in defiance of a High Court ruling.

Earlier this week the IFA was forced to withdraw its official support for the pickets, in the wake of a Ir500,000 fine from the courts.

The judge handling the case, Diarmuid ODonovan, will now decide how to deal with individuals who continue to ignore his order to abandon the blockades.