Republican News · Thursday 03 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

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 doing something.''

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