Farmers bring central Dublin to a halt with tractor protest

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Farmers shut down busy parts of Dublin’s city center for a second successive day on Wednesday by parking dozens of tractors in the capital to protest against low beef prices and climate change initiatives they say they unfairly target them.

The farmers arrived on tractors from all over the country on Tuesday for a planned protest in a cordoned off area but parked their vehicles in the very center of the city and refused to leave until the country’s agriculture minister met them.

Some slept in their vehicles overnight, many parked outside the five-star luxury Shelbourne Hotel on the corner of St. Stephen’s Green, one of the main bus route into the city.

Police warned commuters that a number of the city’s main thoroughfares, including Kildare Street, the seat of parliament, remained closed to traffic. The city’s bus operator told passengers to expect delays on all routes.

“We’ll sit here for many more nights if we have to but this has got to stop and we have to start getting paid for our produce,” said Nicholas Hughes, a 53-year-old dairy farmer from Moylough in County Galway who sat in his tractor all night without sleep.

“It’s the only thing we can do, we’re gone if we don’t do this. We can’t stay producing food below the cost of production and we can’t keep getting blamed for climate change. This is about the death of rural Ireland, it’s dying on its feet as we speak.”

The protest was similar to one staged on Wednesday by French farmers in Paris, although the events were not coordinated.

A weeks-long dispute between Irish farmers and processors over beef prices cut production and caused a wave of temporary layoffs earlier this year before a tentative agreement brokered by the government lifted pickets at meat factories by a grassroots group of farmers.

Some of the farmers protesting on Wednesday also complained about climate change measures, including plans for rolling carbon tax increases. Hughes said sentiment on the issue in Ireland amounted to “nothing but farmer bashing.”

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said he met with demonstrators on the street and inside his office, and that he hoped that could clear the blockage in the city. Protesters said they wanted him to sit down with a delegation from the group.

While some protesters returned to their farms after the first day of protest on Tuesday night, those that stayed said replacements were on the way to maintain the blockade.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Graff

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