Livestock marts in the west of Ireland face closure within the next three years if the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine does not provide them with a level playing field, according to Ballinalsoe Mart Manager Martin Costello.

He was speaking at a meeting of mart managers and representatives last Friday, ahead of a public meeting in Ballinasloe, which was called by Sinn Fein.

“All of the mart representatives in attendance told the politicians that something must be done to sort out the issue of store cattle exports to Northern Ireland losing their identity once they cross the border,” Martin said.

“The factories are being totally two faced about this. I am hearing stories that beef cattle from the Republic are being slaughtered in the North this week at top dollar prices. It’s amazing that as soon as cattle numbers start to slacken the plants throw all of their regulations out the window.”

He said another issue, which is devastating the mart trade, is the purchasing restriction on beef finishers, should they have a TB breakdown. “Currently, these farmers cannot go back into the marts until they have had two successive clear TB tests. This is the height of nonsense as the cattle these farmers are buying are destined for one place only and that is a meat plant.”

He went on to say that a meat plant-driven strategy is now in place, which has the sole aim of doing away with the mart trade for store and finished cattle in Ireland.

“Everything possible is being done to reduce the number of buyers who can come into the marts and purchase cattle,” he said.

“Michelle O’Neill told us that she would do whatever was possible to sort out the nomad cattle issue. But, at the end of the day, Simon Coveney must play his part as well.”