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Furious farmers take plea for help to door of European Commission

By Chris McCullough

Published 25/08/2015

Farmers hold a protest outside the Belfast European Commission office on Dublin Road over the ongoing issue of food prices
Farmers hold a protest outside the Belfast European Commission office on Dublin Road over the ongoing issue of food prices
Farmers hold a protest outside the Belfast European Commission office on Dublin Road over the ongoing issue of food prices

Farmers have taken their protests about the falling price of produce to the doors of the European Commission.

Up to 70 farmers staged a protest outside the office of the commission in Belfast city centre yesterday.

They are urging Brussels to step in and to help solve the farming crisis.

Although a token protest, the message to the EC leadership was clear: if Europe does not help, farming families will be out of business and out of their homes.

The protest was joined by politicians including Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay, Ukip's David McNarry and the SDLP's Joe Byrne.

The main door to the commission's office on Dublin Road was closed and no farmer could get in.

However, police were under instructions to call the staff and ask them to come out to meet the farmers.

Collette Fitzgerald is the head of the EC office in Belfast. She welcomed the farmers and spoke with several of them.

She said: "The commission is well aware of the difficulties farmers are facing.

"Even though some member states are worse off than others we are engaging with them all to listen what is going on in each region.

"We welcome this peaceful protest here today. Farmers are entitled to make their case."

She added: "We are in constant touch with Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan and are keeping him updated on the crisis.

"Indeed, the commissioner visited Northern Ireland only a few weeks after he was appointed and understands the region's farming sector very well.

"The commission is ready to engage, not just in Northern Ireland, but all over the European Union to address this ongoing problem.

"I hope there is a great deal of positive news coming from the council meeting of ministers on September 7, not just for the dairy sector but for all sectors."

Farmers travelled from as far as Co Tyrone to join the protest.

Young farmer Andrew Sterling said: "We need a future. We got fed up sitting back doing nothing so decided to join the protest action. Something needs to be done to help the industry and fast."

William Taylor is the Northern Ireland co-ordinator of Farmers For Action.

He was pleased with how the protest went.

"Farming families are on their knees financially.

"We have reports of some living on beans and toast and some other families in Co Down living off food banks.

"That is a crazy situation. The EC president Jean-Claude Juncker as well as the EU must face facts.

"They must realise that if the European Commission does not help us, farmers and their families will be forced out of the industry."

He added: "Every sector in the industry in hurting and the European Union has the tools to help us. "

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