After 900 farmers attended the Concerned Hill Farmers Group in Letterkenny last Friday night, commonage farmers are continuing their protest outside the Taoiseach’s office in Castlebar.

Henry O’Donnell, spokesperson for the group who chaired the meeting, said the organisers were shocked and vindicated by the numbers who turned up at the meeting.

“We were really shocked at the number of farmers that turned up. We feel very vindicated for setting it up and we feel we have a strong mandate to continue.”

He said that it’s apparent to everyone that collective agreements cannot be imposed as they do not work practically on a hill commonage. Also, it’s not necessary and it’s being introduced as an Irish phenomenon. “It has to be revisited and something else put in its place. There is no farmer saying they don’t want to mange their commonage, but there are other solutions that would make more sense.”

Hill and commonage farmers, he said, have not been represented by anyone. “Between the two meetings there were 3,000 farmers and no one asked them about it beforehand. It was put in place without any consultation from the main stakeholder – who is the farmer.”

The commonage farmers’ Castlebar protest is ongoing, he said, and deputations from Donegal will be travelling down to join it when required.

Last Friday’s meeting, he said, saw a lot of angry farmers at the beginning of the meeting, but this had changed to relief towards the ends as they saw people were prepared to do something about the issues. “Farmers feel they are not so alone and know something will be done for them.

“Farmers had been told this was a done deal and that these proposals could not be changed. Some of the proposals relating to Pillar 1 were changed last week, so these proposals can be changed.”