Taoiseach heckled by beef farmers demanding increased Brexit support

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Michelle Devane

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been heckled by farmers demanding increased Brexit support.

Mr Varadkar was greeted by shouts and chants of "Where's the beef, ye vegan?" as he arrived in Cork for a government meeting.

Members of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) staged a demonstration outside city hall yesterday to coincide with a cabinet meeting being held in the landmark building.

The chants were made in reference to comments made earlier this year by the taoiseach that he was cutting down on eating red meat for health and climate change reasons.

The remarks were not well received by farmers.

Mr Varadkar was cornered by IFA president Joe Healy as he made his way into the building.

Mr Healy told the taoiseach: "We need answers today. We need a clear message coming from this meeting today. Farmers are depending on it."

He said industries across the country were also waiting on answers as they were waiting on farmers to pay the bills that they owed.

Mr Varadkar told Mr Healy that the government wanted to do more for beef farmers, but he said they already received far more income supports than other sectors.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney was also cornered by farmers as he arrived for the meeting.

IFA members told him they had suffered long enough and that beef farmers could not continue to operate in the midst of such economic uncertainty.

The organisation is calling on the government to step in and support beef farmers.

Addressing the rally, Mr Healy said the beef sector needed a €100m aid package to ensure its survival.

"We're here in the rebel country and this is very much a farmers' rebellion and we make no apologies for it," he told the crowd.

The IFA president said beef farmers had been "savaged" financially by the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

"The IFA are not going to allow this government to turn their backs on Irish farmers and in particular beef farmers," he said.

"We're going to fight and fight like hell to make sure an aid package is got for the losses that Irish beef farmers have suffered over the last number of years, but particularly over the last six/seven months.

"If those farmers aren't supported well then they face extinction and that's the message that we were getting across to every minister and the taoiseach who went through that door today."

Mr Healy added that farmers were "angry and fed up to the back teeth of empty promises" and that it was time for the government to deliver.

Last month, farmers stormed an AIB meeting in Dublin in protest against the bank's sale of loans to vulture funds.

The demonstration was part of a nationwide campaign opposing the planned sale of farm loans by the state-owned bank.

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