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Wheels of industry roll up to Stormont for big protest

By Noel McAdam

Published 31/07/2015

Tractors returned to the grounds of Stormont yesterday as dairy farmers stepped up their campaign to stop family-run businesses going to the wall.

The massive mud-clad vehicles lined both sides of the appropriately named Massey Avenue heading up to Parliament Buildings.

It was reminiscent of scenes from the first Ulster Workers Strike in the 1970s, which brought about the collapse of the power-sharing Government led by the late Brian Faulkner.

Yesterday around 200 farmers met farmers' leaders and Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill.

Some protesters claimed politicians are "in the pockets" of large supermarkets - who use milk as a loss leader to attract customers - because of the jobs they bring. One carried a makeshift sign with the slogan: 'Supermarkets - millionaires, farmers - slave labour'.

It was a well-mannered meeting, with Minister O'Neill saying she had been glad to meet the farmers to hear their concerns directly.

The DUP's William Irwin, who accompanied her, told the gathered farmers he hoped there would be a meeting with the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Liz Truss in the not too distant future.

And Ms O'Neill of Sinn Fein said she would lead a delegation in the coming weeks to meet European Commissioner Phil Hogan.

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