The farmers of today owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who took part in the Farmers’ Rights Campaign in 1966, according to IFA President Joe Healy.

Their sacrifice and commitment to the cause must never be forgotten, he said.

Healy was speaking at a commemoration event earlier today, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Farmers’ Rights Campaign and had almost 200 surviving veterans in attendance.

The aim of the campaign was to advance the Declaration of Farmers’ Rights, which called on the Government to honour the promises in the 1916 proclamation and to declare 11 basic rights for the rural and farm families of Ireland.

These included the right to an incomes policy, the right to full consultation into agricultural policy as well as the right to professional agricultural education.

The March For Farmers’ Rights

In October, 1966, 50 years on from the Easter Rising, the President of the National Farmers’ Association Rickard Deasy led 16 men out of Bantry, Co. Cork.

Their aim was to march to Dublin to secure negotiating rights for farmers with the Government.

The beginning of the now famous march was commemorated in Bantry in October where the IFA President was in attendance earlier this year.

It was a wonderful occasion for the people of west Cork and I was struck by the strong sense of pride that exists among the families and the wider community for their role in the Campaign.

“When they started out in Bantry, it is no exaggeration to say they were taking a huge leap of faith. But they believed in their leaders and their cause,” Healy said.

The number of farmers who took part in the march continued to increase during the journey. By the time they reached Dublin over 30,000 farmers marched into Merrion Square, he said.

Following the march, nine men maintained a protest for three weeks before the Minister for Agriculture at the time, Charles Haughey, recognised their cause.

However, protests continued as bridges were blocked, goods and livestock were seized, fines imposed, while 200 NFA members were sent to jail, Healy said.

Today is about honouring those of you who took part in the Farmers’ Rights Campaign.

“Without you, we in the NFA and IFA could not have achieved so much on behalf of farm families since that seminal event 50 years ago.”

The commemoration event was also attended by former NFA/IFA Presidents or representatives on their behalf as well as family members of the nine men who were chosen to maintain the protest.

Representing farmers is the IFA’s core work and will continue to be in the future, according to Healy.

As we build for the future, we remember the past. We salute those great men and women from the Farmers’ Rights Campaign.

“Their willingness to put themselves forward at a very difficult time embodies the volunteer element of NFA and IFA,” he said.

The IFA President also wished to recognise the back-up and support from family members for those who have volunteered to represent farmers over the years.