Irish farmers ‘forced’ with CO2 reductions, hears protest

Irish farmers are being “forced” with demands to cut carbon emissions while being portrayed as “the bad guys” in the climate change conversation, a protest in Dublin city heard.

A motorcade of more than 80 tractors traveled to central Dublin on Sunday to protest outside government buildings against the Climate Action Plan and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.

Irish Farmers Association (IFA) chairman Tim Cullinan said the demonstration came at a “critical moment” as farmers across the country worried about the future of the sector.

The lobby group had been trying for months to get “a reasonable stance” from the government, both on reducing climate emissions and on the CAP, with little success, he said.

Commenting on the sector’s demands to cut carbon emissions, Mr Cullinan said agriculture was “forced” with a reduction of at least 22 percent. “We have to ask ourselves what it’s for,” he told the crowd.

Irish agriculture is “seen as the bad guys” in the debate on tackling climate change, despite having “one of the most efficient” grass-based systems in the world, he said.

The IFA president wondered what the point of Irish farmers would be to reduce their emissions, if other countries didn’t do the same. “If this government does not stand up, this campaign will continue,” he said.

John Keane (30), President of Farm macro, who grew up on a dairy farm in Co Laois, said young farmers faced “uncertainty” about their future like no other industry.

“We need solutions and we need policies that favor young farmers, rather than, I think, forcing us out of the sector,” he told The Irish Times.

Due to the escalating Covid-19 infections, the IFA chose to protest by parking farm equipment in front of government buildings rather than stage a large march.

Solidarity

When the last tractor pulled into Merrion Square on Sunday afternoon, organizers realized they had a problem: the parking had been too efficient.

There was also only a few inches between some of the vehicles parked at the back of the street, meaning there was too much open space at the top of the stage.

Several longer vehicles were scrambled to reverse closer to the podium, while protesters from local IFA groups across the country filled the remaining gap with banners and placards.

As the speeches began, the sandwiches packed for that day’s lunch began to appear through the crowd.

Finbarr O’Rourke, a photographer hired for the day by the IFA, was hoisted onto an aerial platform to take aerial photos of the two rows of farm implements.

The protest was supported by a small segment of the Indian migrant community in Ireland, who arrived to hand out bottles of water to the crowd.

Large protests by farmers in India over the past year have led to a reversal of reform efforts in the country in recent days.

Amitog Singh, an IT worker in Dublin, originally from a farming family in India, said he attended the IFA protest to show solidarity.

“If the government keeps staring at us every five minutes, we’ll have to stand up for ourselves… We’ve heard about the protests happening here in Ireland, so we’re here to support them in whatever way we can [or] shape we can,” he said.

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