‘I genuinely thought we had something to offer’ – Hugh Doyle

Hugh Doyle, the chairperson of the Beef Plan Movement, has spoken of his disappointment that the deal hammered out between farm organisations and representatives of meat processors has not found favour among a number of protesting farmers.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, Monday, September 16, Doyle said: “I genuinely thought we had something to offer.”

Doyle said that, while the Beef Plan Movement did not play a part in organising the protests, the organisation would engage with protesters to make them aware of the deal.

Doyle explained that he had travelled to the protest at the Liffey Meats plant in Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan, to meet the protesters.

I went down there expecting that I would get some sort of a positive reaction, but to be honest I didn’t.

Doyle highlighted that “people need to realise that the farmers feel abandoned”.

“They feel that a lot of these talks, what we’re bringing back to the table, are promises going forward, and what they want to see is tangible money,” said the Beef Plan chair.

He went on: “Nearly 50% of the farmers that were at the meeting [in Ballyjamesduff] last night, they explained to me that they got nothing.

You have this quality assurance, where you have to tick boxes regarding the amount of time the animal is on the farm, how old the animal is, and all these bells and whistles. 50% of the people there did not tick those boxes, and they turned to me and said ‘you got me nothing’.

Doyle said that he had explained to the farmers the deal was a “starting point”; however, the farmers he met told him “this is the finishing point as far as we’re concerned”, and that they were not moving off the picket lines until the base price for cattle was addressed.

“You have no idea of the frustration and the abandonment. The trust between the grassroots farmer and the processor in this country at the moment is beyond an all-time low. They just don’t trust each other,” he added.

During the RTÉ interview, Doyle also highlighted the two sides of the argument, between the processors, who “have contracts to fill and have millions of pounds worth of meat stuck in a factory that needs to come out”, and the farmers, whose “businesses are going down the toilet, who can’t pay there bills”.

The one thing you don’t do when you have a ticking bomb is go fiddling with it. You bring in experts to try and cool the thing down.

“Those farmers are honest people, and are prepared to gamble their liberty. Just think about that for a second,” Doyle added.

“They’re standing at the gates. Injunctions are held over them. I can’t get my head around this. They’re prepared to go to prison. It’s crazy stuff.

“People need to take a step back and take some sort of middle ground to try and cool things down,” he concluded.