A visiting Chinese delegation inspecting Irish meat-processing plants may witness a stand-off at one facility today after efforts to broker a temporary lifting of the picket were rejected.
Protesters outside ABP in Bandon, Co Cork, have been engaged in the demonstrations over beef prices and had said they would suspend their actions.
Accountant Kieran Coughlan, asked by farmers to act as a broker, said he contacted ABP in Bandon and said those on the picket would withdraw for the duration of the visit by the Chinese delegation across Friday and Monday, if the company lifted its injunction against protest at the plant and if a restricted number of livestock were allowed access.
Mr Coughlan said ABP Bandon rejected the offer and farmers on the picket have pledged to increase numbers at today’s protest action.
The development came after it emerged two of the pickets outside other meat-processing plants are being temporarily stood down.
One is at the ABP facility in Cahir, Co Tipperary, which had been running since last Sunday. Yesterday afternoon demonstrators cleared from the front of the factory as Chinese officials, continuing an inspection tour, arrived.
Similarly, at the Dawn Meats facility at Grannagh, Co Waterford, those picketing said they will withdraw from the site when inspectors visit this morning, although the protest action is set to resume afterwards.
It is understood that no pre-conditions were set for the temporary withdrawal in Cahir, unlike the offer made in Bandon, where yesterday three lorries from Cahir carrying bullocks were not allowed access to the factory when they arrived at 7am. They waited until after lunchtime before leaving.
One protester, who did not want to be named, said around 50 people were at the ABP gates in support of the protest on Wednesday night.
“We were worried we were quite short of members but once we got the crowd we had the bit of heart,” he said, adding that fresh talks were urgently required, with price the key factor.
“We have nothing to lose, that’s just it,” he said, while another demonstrator said: “We might as well starve here as starve at home.”
One lorry driver said: “If I get in, I can’t get out.”
Meat Industry Ireland has reiterated that fresh negotiations cannot get under way until the current pickets are stopped, while others have called on the agriculture minister to bring all parties together.
Meanwhile, the owner of three beef-processing plants secured a temporary High Court injunction restraining protesters from blockading its factories and from intimidating their staff and suppliers.
The order was granted in favour of Liffey Meats, which owns and operates plants outside Ballinasloe, Co Roscommon; Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan; and Hackettstown, Co Carlow.
At yesterday’s vacation sitting of the High Court, Mr Justice David Barniville was told that the slaughtering of animals at the plants had ceased due to protesters blocking the entrances.
As no livestock was getting through, the jobs of the firm’s 600-strong workforce had been put at risk, the company’s counsel, Rory Mulcahy, told the court.
Mr Mulcahy said some of his client’s staff and persons attempting to make deliveries to one of the plants had been intimidated by the protesters and there had been some altercations.
He said that the injunction proceedings had been brought against 14 individuals his client had been able to identify and that further proceedings were likely to be brought when others involved in the blockade had been identified.
Mr Justice Barniville said he was satisfied on an ex parte basis to grant the injunctions restraining the protesters from blocking the entrances to the three plants and further restrained them from trespassing on the company’s properties or from intimidating any of the Liffey Meat’s staff or visitors to the plants.
Liffey Meats is the fifth beef-processing plant owner to obtain a High Court injunction against protesters who earlier this week commenced the blockade of their processor’s facilities.
Since Tuesday, Dawn Meats, ABP, Kepak, and Slaney meats have obtained similar orders from the courts.
In addition, Dawn Meats has obtained permission to bring proceedings seeking the attachment and possible committal to prison of one individual it claims has breached the injunction and is allegedly in contempt of court.
The actions brought by Dawn Meats and ABP return before the High Court this morning.