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Beef taskforce meeting adjourned after scuffle outside Department of Agriculture

Latest: The inaugural meeting of the newly established Beef Taskforce has been suspended following altercations outside the building where it was due to take place.

A group of farmers were holding a protest outside the Department of Agriculture when they blocked the entrance and prevented representatives from Meat Industry Ireland (MII) from entering.

The group from MII arrived at the Agriculture House to hold a meeting with department officials after an agreement was made last month which ended a number of protests outside meat plants.

There was a brief standoff outside the building before the delegation from MII left.

It was a great pity that farm representatives were not in a position to air the legitimate concerns of farmers at the Taskforce

In a statement, MII said: “A delegation from Meat Industry Ireland this morning sought to attend a meeting of the Beef Taskforce at the invitation of the chairman and the Minister for Agriculture.

“On their arrival they were physically and aggressively prevented from doing so by protesters.”

Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, condemned the incidents.

He said: “It is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef industry that the work of the Taskforce goes ahead.

“The Taskforce’s remit is to monitor the implementation of the actions arising from the agreement reached on 15 September and offers  the most viable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders.

“It was a great pity that farm representatives were not in a position to air the legitimate concerns of farmers at the Taskforce.”

The deal struck last month included the reform of the beef sector and an immediate increase in prices for farmers.

It also involved a number of interventions to provide immediate benefit for beef producers, as well as a range of strategic measures to address structural imbalances in the sector.

The IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association) John Coughlan said: “75,000 Irish beef farmers eagerly anticipate the work of the Beef Taskforce and have placed their trust in those representing them.

“Any delays in progress risks returning farmers to the picket line.

“I am calling on the taskforce’s chair, Michael Dowling and Meat Industry Ireland leadership to swiftly establish the factual status of legal injunctions and to bring the necessary clarity so that these talks can proceed.

“We are days out from Brexit and have already lost valuable time on what was agreed weeks ago.”

Earlier: Beef Market Taskforce meeting postponed after angry scenes outside Department of Agriculture

The first meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce has been postponed after chaotic scenes outside the Department of Agriculture.

The talks were due to take place between state agencies and farmer groups following a deal struck last month in the long-running dispute.

But some farmers jeered and shoved representatives from Meat Industry Ireland, stopping them getting into the building.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has condemned the angry scenes and said it is a "great pity" farmer representatives chose not to air their concerns at the taskforce.

Earlier: Angry scenes outside Department of Agriculture ahead of first Beef Market Taskforce talks

A scuffle has broken out between beef farmers and the boss of Meat Industry Ireland outside the Department of Agriculture in Dublin.

The angry scenes came ahead of the first meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce which was set up following the dispute which led to blockades at dozens of meat factories.

The talks have not started because farmers stopped MII's representatives getting into the building.

They say the taskforce should not meet until all legal threats against farmers are lifted.

Farmers protesting outside say they feel let down.

"We're not going away and we want these talks, these Beef Taskforce talks, not to go ahead at the moment until such time these injunctions are lifted," said one.

Another farmer said: "The future is very bleak for us unless we can get some sort of a good deal on the table.

"And at the moment there is no deal."

Cormac Healy from Meat Industry Ireland insists the legal threats against farmers have been dropped.

"The legal actions in relation to protests and blockades outside meat plants have been honoured and that's all we have to say at the moment.

"They have been honoured," said Mr Healy.