Wednesday 13 November 2019

'I'm no vegan', Leo tells farmers after 'where's the beef?' chants

Leo Varadkar was confronted by disgruntled farmers
Leo Varadkar was confronted by disgruntled farmers

Leo Varadkar has denied accusations by protesting beef farmers that he is a vegan.

The Taoiseach said he's "very much an omnivore" and added: "My problem, if anything, is I probably eat too much of everything."

It came after an Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) protest laid siege to Cork City Hall where the Cabinet met yesterday.

Hundreds of farmers showed up to vent their anger at low beef prices and fears of how Brexit will impact on the beef industry.

Up to 20 tractors circled the block outside as ministers conducted their meeting.

Mr Varadkar was greeted with chants of "where's the beef, ye vegan?" when he arrived.

This was a reference to his remarks earlier this year where he said he was eating less meat to reduce his carbon footprint.

IFA president Joe Healy took the opportunity to confront Mr Varadkar, telling him farmers wanted a "clear message" from ministers on the help on offer.

Mr Varadkar replied that the Government wanted to do more for beef farmers, but also said they already received far more support than other businesses.

After ministers went inside, Mr Healy addressed the crowd.

"We're here in the rebel county and this is very much a farmers' rebellion, and we make no apologies for it," he said.

He warned that if help wasn't forthcoming, the industry faces "extinction". "That's the message that we were getting across to every minister and the Taoiseach who went through that door today," he said.


The farmers are seeking supports totalling €100m.

After the Cabinet meeting, Mr Varadkar said everyone in Government acknowledges that beef farmers are struggling and said the European Commission is being pursued to see how additional income support can be provided.

He also denied he was a vegan, saying: "I'm very much an omnivore. My problem, if anything, is I probably eat too much of everything."

Separately, he said the record number of people experiencing homelessness is "disappointing and very depressing", but said Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has his "full confidence".

Mr Varadkar was speaking after the number of people living in emergency accommodation rose to 10,305 in March.

Despite the record high in the number of homeless people, the Taoiseach defended his Fine Gael colleague, saying: "I've full confidence in Eoghan Murphy as Housing Minister, it's a very difficult job."

He added that Mr Murphy did not cause the housing crisis, which he blamed on the economic crisis and the Fianna Fail-led government that was in power at the time.

Mr Varadkar insisted that progress was being made in resolving the crisis and that 18,000 new houses were built last year, more than any other year in a decade.

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