Farm protest plans for Barosso visit

PLANS are going ahead for a protest over the threats posed to Irish farming and agri business by the world trade talks, when the European Commission president José Manuel Barroso visits Dublin next Thursday.

A national demonstration by farmers and the food industry, worried that European and Irish agriculture is being sold out in the Geneva negotiations, will be staged outside Dublin Castle where Mr Barroso is to address the Forum for Europe.

There will also be a three-hour food industry shutdown countrywide to highlight the threats posed to the agri sector if current proposals are adopted.

Tánaiste Brian Cowen, the Fianna Fáil leader, said in reply to a question at his Dublin press conference yesterday that he did not wish to preface what Taoiseach Bertie Ahern might be saying to President Barroso.

But he assured the farming and rural community that he recognised the importance of the issue for farming, agriculture and agri business in Ireland.

Mr Cowen said he had met with IFA president Padraig Walshe at his constituency last Monday, and they had a detailed briefing on the issues.

“I am aware of the IFA’s and the farm organisation’s view and obviously I will be feeding those in as the Taoiseach prepares for President Barosso’s meeting,” he said.

Mr Cowen said, that coming from the Laois-Offaly constituency, he is particularly aware of concerns being expressed.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Mary Coughlan was meanwhile asked in the Dáil by Fine Gael spokesman Michael Creed, TD if she will use the veto in Europe to defeat the current proposals on the table.

She said she believed a balance is the most important outcome that she must attain for Irish agriculture and the agri food sector.

“We are not yet at a position where a final decision must be made. There are ongoing discussions in the Commission and among member states. I will raise this matter once again on Monday at the EU Council meeting.

“I will also have further discussions with the Commission and like-minded ministers. We are in a process and we are not at the stage of making a final decision,” she said, warning that the EU, and in particular EU agriculture, cannot be the banker for these World Trade Organisation talks.

Mr Creed announced that a European People’s Party summit meeting, which Fine Gael will host in Dublin next week, will include a special working group on agriculture and the implications of the trade talks.

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