Category: Archive

Farmers make tracks to Dublin

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

After a week of so-called “tractorcades” snaked their way through the Irish countryside, 300 farm tractors were allowed to enter Dublin last Friday to culminate their protest at Government Buildings.
Now farm leaders face the task of capitalizing on their campaign by translating the countrywide rallies into hard-cash benefits to boost rural incomes.
With crucial talks on world trade and EU Common Agricultural Policy reforms and the prospect of millions of small farmers joining the Community in the former Eastern Bloc countries, budgets are under strain like never before.
The week of protests was dominated by rows between Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh and Irish Farmer’s Association leaders about the real level of farm income — how many are full- or part-time farmers, how much they make net and gross, and how this compares with other sectors of the economy?
Both sides accepted that farmers have had a bad few years and there is a very real incomes crisis in the sector.
With subsidies and grants making up about euro 70 of every euro 100, a farmer earns, it is a sector that is exposed to any budgetary cutbacks in upcoming talks.
IFA President John Dillon took a gamble in taking his supporters to the streets and byroads of the country. It paid off as support grew for the tractorcade. The final six convoys of tractors that descended on the capital managed to stage their protest and leave without major traffic snarl-ups.
Up to 3,000 tractors a day had been involved in the convoys, but only 300 were allowed into Dublin by gardai, who praised the farmer’s cooperation and the minimizing of disruption.
The Dublin Chamber of Commerce claimed millions of euros worth of trade had been lost as a result of city people staying at home.
The Dublin City Business Association deplored the farmers’ action as “irresponsible.” A spokesman said it would damage the economy, create a bad image overseas and lead to loss of income for others.
The Association said the traffic laws that are applied on a daily basis to 2 million Dubliners should also have been enforced against farmers. They should have been prosecuted for illegal parking or use of tractors unlicensed or uninsured for the roads, the Association said.
At the Dublin rally, Dillon called for cuts and extra charges that affected agriculture in the Budget 2003 to be scrapped. He also wants improved price management from Brussels, higher VAT refunds and changes in various directives and environmental schemes.
The support the demonstration received in the capital was beyond “his wildest dreams,” Dillon said. “The friendship as I drove a tractor in through Dublin was extraordinary. We all need each other. The urban people need farmers and the farmers need urban people.”
A government statement recognized the difficult economic environment for farmers but said the only way to meet their concerns was through “constructive dialogue and engagement” with Walsh.
“The government’s approach has always been founded in the unique importance of the sector in terms of sustaining rural Ireland and as our major resource based industry.”

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