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Watch: IFA President confronts Taoiseach in Cork over Brexit impact on farmers

Update 12.25pm: Farmers want the government to announce a €100m support package for the beef sector now amid warnings some farmers are facing financial ruin from Brexit losses.

Some 500 angry farmers attended a large IFA rally outside Cork's City Hall this morning where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting.

They travelled from over the country to attend the rally in support of beef farmers who say their income has plummeted since Brexit was announced.

They said they need support now, and not in a few months as the government continues talks with the European Commission.

Farming leaders spoke directly to several government ministers, including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, and Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, as they made their way in to the meeting and told them farmers need to hear an announcement today.

The IFA's Munster Regional Chairman, John Coughlan, said beef farmers have been dealing with a hard Brexit for over two years.

"They need financial support now," he said.

Addressing a large rally on Anglesea Street in the last few minutes, IFA President Joe Healy said farmers can't wait any longer and he accused the Taoiseach and the Government of failing beef farmers.

“Politicians have not delivered on their promises," he said.

Our message to the Taoiseach and his Cabinet here in Cork today is that farmers will judge politicians on their actions on this issue.

"Election Day is three weeks on Friday May 24 and May 25 will be judgment day,” he said.

“Today we are sending a strong message to the Government that farmers are rebelling against inaction.

The Minister for Agriculture has been standing idly by, adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach. This is not good enough."

Mr Healy said cattle finishers have been "savaged by Brexit" with some beef finishers facing ruin.

He said some bull finishers have been hit with losses of between €200 and €500 a head in the last six months.

He said while politicians have been ‘promising big’ on Brexit losses, it is now time to deliver.

"Farmers are angry with the inaction from the Government and the EU Commission. Farmers have already taken a huge hit from Brexit related losses. They need help now," he said.

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach said he understands the difficulties facing the beef sector.

And while he pointed out that farmers already receive income support, he said the government wanted to do more and is working with the European Commission on that.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the government is very aware of the difficulties facing the farming sector in general.

A combination of issues, including weather events and Brexit, have created the "perfect storm", he said.

He said he would be briefing his Cabinet colleagues on the various issues but pointed out that he has been actively exploring new beef markets and focusing on live exports.

He said Ireland opened a new beef market to China last year and hopes to open a new market to Turkey later this year.

"In fact the volume of beef gone into China in the first quarter of 2019 is nearly as much as what we put in in 2018," he said.

"And the volume of live exports is up 34% in first three months of the year compared to the same period last year."

He said the government is engaged intensively with the European Commission on what additional support it might be able to provide.

That process should take weeks, and not months, he said.

Update 11.10am: McGrath poses with prize bull as farmers protest Brexit impact in Cork

Hundreds of angry farmers are protesting outside Cork city hall this morning where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is chairing this week’s cabinet meeting.

Members of IFA groups from all over the country are calling on the government to provide more support to farmers in the context of Brexit.

They said the beef industry alone has suffered losses of up to €100m in the last few months alone.

They said the time for statements of support is over and that’s what’s needed now is financial support.

IFA president Joe Healy spoke to several cabinet ministers on their way into the meeting and told him farmers are at breaking point.

Agriculture minister Michael Creed said the government is liaising closely with European Commission on the issue.

Earlier: Ministers making their way into Cork's City Hall this morning have been confronted by a show of strength from protesting farmers who grilled a number of them about the impact of Brexit on the beef industry.

As well as a large crowd of farmers and a prize bull, Aberdeen Angus, Jake Eric (with which junior minister Finian McGrath happily posed for pictures), the protests have seen a number of tractors parked alongside City Hall.

"We have suffered for a long, long time at this stage," Tánaiste Simon Coveney was told by the Chairman of the IFA National Livestock Committee, Angus Woods.

"Beef farmer cannot continue in that uncertainty. There needs to be a statement coming from Cabinet today saying that it is going to support beef farmers in their hour of need."

Earlier, IFA President Joe Healy said beef farmers are suffering and the Government needs to act like they said they would.

"Farmers have endured the pain of Brexit in their pockets, where it really hurts."

"Unless they're supported they'll go out of business."