The future of IFA protests, according to the presidential candidates

One theme that has come up time and time again at the IFA presidential debates is the that of protests.

Farmers in Co. Louth this week questioned the value of protests and whether anything meaningful could be achieved through protesting.

Vegetable growers it was noted are so scarce on the ground that they cannot afford to be seen protesting outside supermarkets as there is a fear they may find themselves delisted from supermarkets buyers lists.

The passionate and often militant protesting of French farmers was highlighted and Galway candidate Joe Healy said he was told recently that the difference between Irish and French farmers is that the Irish start their fires outside the supermarkets!

While Healy was not advocating anything as rash as this, he told the Louth debate that he is a strong believer in staying put outside gates until a result is achieved. He also said that at the most recent beef protest he was utterly disappointed to see lorries lined up when the protest was called off at the plant he was protesting outside.

“Legislation that bans below cost selling and hello money must be in place. If that doesn’t work it’s call on your strength in numbers. And we stand until we get results.”

Laois candidate Henry Burns said farmers must realise that every time the IFA goes out to protest they may not always get what they want.

French farmers, he said, have alienated the public and have achieved nothing. “They have not achived anything on this and we have to ensure it is effective protesting.

“It’s not as simple as putting your hand in someones pocket and taking what you want. We have to be targetted with our protests. Communication is a key word – members need to understand about having ownership in the protest and the plan. It would be much better if we could go in and get what we want without protesting.”

Kerry candidate Flor McCarthy said farmers on the ground have to be behind the protest. “The first thing the new president should do is bring the beef finishers on board. We have to get back to moving with the ordinary members on the ground and involve them in the decision making.”

He said the communication within IFA on protests needs to improve to ensure that people are on board and understand why protests are taking place and the strategy involved in them.