The Government has lost touch with grass roots farming, the United Farmers Association (UFA) said after last week’s farming meeting in Ballinasloe.

Spokesperson Pat McCarthy said this was clear by the crowd which the Sinn Fein-led meeting attracted. “Three years ago, Sinn Fein would have been lucky to attract as many as 10 farmers to a meeting. The fact that they could bring out 400-plus producers in Ballinasloe last Friday night and host a pre-meeting with up to 40 mart representatives says two things.

“First-off, the Irish Government has lost touch with grassroots farmers and is seen to be too closely associated with the meat plants. Moreover, beef farming is in a deep crisis and producers welcome the input of any political party that is willing to support their cause at the present time.”

He said that, in relation to ‘nomad’ cattle, he was impressed with the proactive views expressed by the North’s Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill at the Ballinasloe meeting.

“She was of the view that a derogation on the export issue could be secured if Dublin joined forces with Belfast.  This option may have legs, but it will take some time to get a deal sorted. Such an approach will also require Simon Coveney to step up to the plate. I also noted the view expressed by Michelle O’Neill to the effect that her Dublin counterpart needed to be more proactive on this matter. I heartily agree.”

Pat McCarthy went on to indicate that UFA is following a different line of approach in terms of solving the ‘nomad’ cattle issue.

“We believe that there should be no restrictions placed on the dross border movement of cattle, given the existing legislation, which permits the free movement of goods throughout the EU,” he said.

“And this is a point that we will be bringing to the attention of the EU Commission as a matter of priority.”