June 20, 2021
News

New body for beef industry could end protests at Kilkenny meat plants – Minister

By COLIN BARTLEY

THE creation of a new way of regulating the relationship between all stakeholders in the beef crisis could bring to an end the blockade of meat processing plants in Kilkenny.

The Government, according to Junior Minister and Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan, is looking at ways of creating a body that will do exactly this.

“We are looking to create a better regulation of the relationship between beef producers and beef processors.

“My colleague Heather Humphries (Business and Innovation Minister) is working on the mechanism for providing a new body specifically for the beef industry.

“Currently the industry uses the Competition Authority to bring the stakeholders together. I don’t see their role fits what is required going forward.  I don’t think the farmers have confidence in the Competition Authority, they have never seen protection from it.

“Whether it needs a fully new office to be created or someone who is attached to a regulatory bodies that already exists, we need to look at someway creating this new body where all stakeholders have a platform.”

Minister Phelan is calling on all sides in the dispute to resume talks.

“It would be great if all sides sat down for talks sooner rather than later. It will have to go to talks again. It’s important to bring in the retailers as they are the third party.

“The farmers are at the end of their tether, but they do want a solution. From a management perspective, there are 320 pay-packets in Dawn Meats that rely on livestock going in and out those gates. Management has a responsibility to them.

Minister Phelan understands the frustration on both sides but sees there are grounds and a willingness from both sides to resolve this dispute. The temporary lifting of the protest to allow a visiting delegation access to the facility proves this.

“There was movement, and it shows the rationality that is among the protestors. The farmers lifted the protest while the inspection by the Chinese delegation was taking place. An act of good faith is good on their part.

“The injunctions are not helpful, but the processors have responsibility to their employees. Equally, and the judge was clear in the court, the farmers do have the right to a peaceful protest.

“At the end of the day, the processors and the farmers depend on each other.”

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