Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris has told Agriland that 400-plus livestock farmers attended the open meeting, which he hosted in Ballinasloe last Friday night, to highlight the evolving crisis that is impacting on Ireland’s live cattle trade.

Also in attendance were Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, the North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill plus leading representatives of all the main farm lobby groups and ICOS.

“The large turnout on the evening reflected the depth of feeling held by farmers on this matter,” Martin Ferris said.

“This issue must be tackled on an all-Ireland basis. Michelle O’Neill has made it clear that a derogation on live exports to the North could be achieved provided Dublin and Belfast worked to together on this matter. The option of developing an acceptable all-island labelling system for beef is another idea that could be developed. The reality is that we need to see quick progress made on this important matter.

“I will be raising the subject in the Dáil tomorrow with Minister Coveney. Michelle O’Neill has made it clear that she wants to see urgent steps taken to resolve this evolving crisis: the onus is now on Simon Coveney to respond accordingly.”

Significantly, the Co Kerry TD believes that a derogation on cross border cattle exports can be achieved without bringing the matter to Brussels. “Fundamentally, the factories are trying to function as a cartel when it comes to the operation of the beef trade in Ireland. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

He went on to say that he welcomes the active participation of all the main farming groups at last Friday’s meeting. But it is fundamentally important that they now come together and act as one on behalf of every Irish livestock farmer.

“There is talk of a rally being held in the very near future, which will allow livestock producers throughout Ireland vent their anger at the current iniquities associated with the live trade cattle. I would heartily support a development of this nature.”