Governments failed to challenge beef cartel
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
supported a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Agriculture,
Food and Rural Development in the Dáil last week arising out of
the recent crisis in the beef industry. The Cavan/Monaghan TD
said he did so because of the failure of successive ministers and
successive governments to confront the cartel in the beef industry.
Ó Caoláin said:
``The massive confrontation which we have seen in the beef industry
was a crisis waiting to happen. Given the deep structural problems in
the beef sector the farming community and the meat factory owners
were clearly on a collision course unless there was effective
management by the government. Instead of that effective stewardship,
we had the government mismanagement of the meat inspection issue,
which was the torch that lit the bonfire.
``I commend the farmers for their militancy. Direct action was
needed to challenge the cartel operating in the beef industry and it
was remarkable that the action won widespread public support, far
beyond the farming community itself. The crisis was deepened by the
use of the courts by the meat plant owners against the Irish Farmers
Association. The imposition of massive fines on the IFA stands in
stark contrast to the lack of action against those corrupt sectors of
the industry exposed in the Beef Tribunal.
The use of the courts by the factories showed a punitive approach
and a lack of commitment to resolve the dispute.
``The farmers have now been vindicated in their claim that what was
effectively a cartel was operating in the beef industry. This
penalised both the farmers and the consumers in terms of prices. I
hope that this IFA action, and the local bargaining which has been
undertaken, is the beginning of the end of the cartel. Local direct
action has led to local bargaining, an effective exercise in people
power. But the problems in the beef industry remain. The domination of
the industry by the three big players - AIBP, Dawn Meats and Kepak may
yet reverse the progress made by the IFA in securing 90p per pound.
``The Working Group established by this government to examine the
beef industry looks like a measure conjured up simply to be seen to be