The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, is appealing to Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to “engage” with its farmer customers as the industry faces an effective shutdown.

Speaking to reporters at a department Brexit seminar in Dublin Castle, the minister responded to MII’s statement this morning, Tuesday, September 10, that it is facing an “indefinite cessation of cattle slaughtering” throughout the country due to “ongoing illegal blockades”.

It follows on from MII’s decision to adjourn its participation in the second round of the beef reform talks yesterday as it said that 20 plants are still being blockaded by farmer protesters, representing 80% of processing capacity.

When asked how the escalating situation can be resolved Minister Creed said: “It is a very difficult dispute; standard operating procedures don’t apply here.

“I have over the last number of weeks reached out and had engagement directly and through colleagues with practically all of the picket lines now and it is abundantly clear that the lines of communication are very different to standard operating procedures in terms of normal industrial relations, standing down pickets, getting into talks don’t apply.

“But I would make the direct point to MII: Engagement with your customers is a business imperative and we cannot have a situation where their refusal to engage effectively closes down the entire industry.

“I would appeal to them, and to all parties now, to reflect and particularly to reflect on the fact that any unilateral action now has a capacity not to add to the possibility of a solution but to exacerbate the difficulties we face.

I would appeal particularly to MII to reflect on that matter and on the fact that direct engagement with their customers is a business imperative – and it’s not after the last man standing at the picket line has been hauled before the courts that that can happen.

“It has to happen now,” the minister stressed.

“I think it is the case that there is a willingness to talk; it’s the context in which people will come around the table that is difficult – all of the farm organisations are there and I would appeal to MII to reflect on that,” he said.