The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine must be “a vehicle to unlock the beef impasse”, according to independent TD Denis Naughten.

His parliamentary colleague, Pat Deering TD, who is the chairman of the committee, said last week that the committee may reconvene early, in light of the wave of protests by beef farmers outside processing plants around the country.

Naughten has written to deputy Deering to urge the committee, if it does meet, to call on “all of the players in the beef sector” to put forward proposals “to see if common ground can be found for further talks”.

Presently we have both sides setting down preconditions for formal talks which is making it impossible to move this situation forward.

“I believe that the Dáil agriculture committee must now be used as a forum for all sides to set out what they believe are practical measures to address the income crisis facing beef farmers,” Naughten argued.

“From such a forum I hope that common strands can be identified to facilitate a further phase of round-table discussions, as it is only around the table that this situation can be resolved,” the Roscommon-Galway TD continued.

According to Naughten, a “confidence-building mechanism” is needed to move things forward.

The letter

In his letter to Deering, Naughten called on the committee to hold a series of “focused bilateral hearings on proposed practical solutions to the current crisis”.

“All of the farm organisations; Meat Industry Ireland (MII); the state bodies; the Department’s of Agriculture and Business; the supermarket sector; and consumer representatives should be asked to submit proposals in advance and then have the committee question witnesses in order to elaborate on their proposals,” he outlined.

The objective behind this process is to identify common ground which could then form the basis of a more formal round-table discussion with an independent facilitator.

The letter concluded: “We cannot allow the current impasse to continue any longer and I feel that this could be a practical step which the committee could take to identify practical solutions which could form the basis for a longer term agreement.”