Beef farmers protesting at the ABP meat-processing plant in Bandon have agreed a "one-day" deal to allow a Chinese delegation to visit the facility on Monday.
Under the agreement, the protesting farmers will not protest at the gates of the factory on Monday when a Chinese delegation visits the plant. This will allow the facility to carry out a full day's kill of cattle at the facility.
In return, APB said it will not take any action, legal or otherwise, against any of the protesting farmers as long as none of them breaches the terms of an injunction against protest at the plant on Monday.
The protesting farmers emphasised that the agreement is a "one-day event" and that they will continue to blockade the facility over the weekend and next week again beginning on Tuesday.
News of the deal came this afternoon after the High Court ruled that permanent orders restraining trespass and intimidation could be made with the consent of named protesters engaged in blockades at Dawn Meats factories.
Earlier this week, the High Court had granted Dawn Meats, ABP and Slaney Meats temporary injunctions restraining named defendants from intimidating suppliers and staff or continuing to blockade factories.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said that 12 processing plants across the country have had to cease operations and lay off staff as a result of the blockades. It warned that if the disruption continues "further significant staff lay-offs in the coming days are inevitable".
However, farmers have said that the collapse in the price they are being paid for their cattle means they are having to fight for their livelihoods.
One young farmer, who did not want to be named protesting outside the Bandon ABP facility said he has been forced to take a part-time job in order to keep his head above water financially:
"It's a chain and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and at the moment the farmer is the weakest link. We can't keep going. We are losing money every day at this. It's a joke. I already have a part-time job. I am 33 years of age and, to be honest, I have good land. There are fellas up the in the west of Ireland and they don't have the options that I have but at the end of the day you take what you get," he said.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Oireachtas agriculture committee, Pat Deering, said he is considering the possibility of holding a meeting of the Committee next Wednesday to discuss the beef dispute: “Ireland’s agricultural produce is among the finest in the world and is one of the cornerstones of our high-performing export sector.
"With that in mind, its stability and the collaboration between the various stakeholders included farmers, processors and everyone else involved, is critical. With that in mind, and given the complexity of the current situation, there is a particular onus on me to consider any proposal received to decide whether it would be in order from a procedural perspective for the Committee to consider it."