By Michael O’Farrell and Ray Ryan
THE row over the Nitrates Directive took a heavy political toll yesterday as farming organisations walked out of social partnership negotiations in anger.
Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and Macra na Feirme suspended their involvement in the national partnership negotiations, accusing the Government of undermining the process.
IFA president Padraig Walshe said yesterday the Departments of Agriculture and the Environment had undermined the negotiations by announcing the imposition of the directive while the first partnership meeting was in progress.
"It was bad faith and completely at variance with the positive statements inside the talks," he said.
He said he would not lead farmers into a charade.
"The Nitrates Directive will hit all farmers hard and undermine the competitiveness of agriculture in the future," he said.
Macra na Feirme president Colm Markey said he was stunned by the Environment Department’s move to take out advertisements advising farmers how to comply with the statutory instrument while partnership talks were taking place.
He said the department had treated the farming social partners with contempt during the process of implementing the directive and proceeded to throw petrol on the flames yesterday.
Mr Markey said Macra was also suspending its involvement in the talks.