Protesting farmers vow to ‘shut down’ Dublin city and block M50

Farmers say falling revenues form part of a wider economic collapse in rural Ireland

There has been a stand-off between gardai and farmer protestors at Merrion Square as gardaí attempted to prevent the tractors from exiting the area and driving towards the Dáil. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

A “tractor protest” in Dublin city centre escalated on Tuesday night as farmers obstructing roads with heavy vehicles threatened to shut down the capital on Wednesday morning by blocking major motorways on the outskirts of Dublin, as well as the M50.

Dozens of farmers remained congregated at the top of Kildare Street with tractors and other vehicles stretching across the entire width of the road and backed up as far as Lower Leeson Street.

Some farmers returned home to feed their animals but those who remained said they intended to remain there all night and insisted an “army” of farmers would return on Wednesday morning, with tractors already en route on Tuesday night.

In a statement, An Garda Síochána said it was anticipated that the protest at St Stephen’s Green would continue through the night into Wednesday morning.

Gardaí said a number of roads would remain closed until further notice, specifically Kevin Street, Cuffe Street, Kildare Street, Merrion Square South, Dawson Street and Merrion Row.

The farmers are protesting over the price they get for animals at the factory gate. The demonstration is linked to those which caused major disruption to the beef industry last summer when factories were blockaded.

The farmers were on Tuesday demanding a face-to-face meeting with Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, who declined to meet them. The farmers also had a letter for Mr Creed but would not pass it to one of his advisors who acted as an intermediary.

“We need every man and woman here to get on the phone, to get everyone that they can, every tractor that they can,” said one farmer, addressing the crowd. “We are not backing down. Get on the phones. We’ve started this and we’ll finish it.”

Another said: “We need to stand united – the whole lot of us – because come tomorrow morning at 6.30am this city has to move, and, if we’re in the way, it can’t move. It’s the only way we’re going to put pressure on Minister Creed.

“Make as many phone calls down the country as you can to get more of the army back up here to block the roads. We have one crack of the whip. We spent weeks and weeks outside the factories and we got no result. We will stay here until we get a result.”

The letter to Mr Creed, signed “farmers of Ireland”, includes a list of eight demands including that the beef task force be set up; a regulator “to protect farmers’ interests” be appointed; and the “root and branch reform” of all State agencies connected with the agriculture sector, including Teagasc and Bord Bia.

The farmers, none of whom were willing to be identified, also said they wanted injunctions against individual farmers dating back to the blockades of factories to be lifted.

They also demanded a public apology from Mr Creed for comments in the Dáil on Tuesday when he said death threats had been received by senior management in a meat company.

Earlier, the farmers and their vehicles caused havoc in Dublin city centre with major traffic disruption.

Gardaí negotiating with some of the farmers as the stand-off developed at St Stephens’ Green earlier on Tuesday expressed concern that a small minority of those attending the protest might attempt to storm the Dáil. The independent farmers negotiating on behalf of the protest said this was not their intention.

Many of the farmers said they felt disillusioned with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and have decided to protest independently.