So the Beef Plan Movement is to hold elections before the end of the year. It is intended that all senior office holders would step down to facilitate elections for their positions, although they will continue in their roles until those contests are complete. It would be expected that most of the best-known activists will be candidates to contest their own or other positions.
It is an important step on the movement’s journey towards becoming a fully fledged organisation, where leadership has a democratic mandate.
It’s understood the four directors of Beef Plan Movement Company Limited by Guarantee – Enda Fingleton, Alan O’Brien, Kevin O’Brien and Hugh Doyle – are overseeing the establishment of rules to govern the elections.
The Beef Plan is at a crossroads in many ways. Barely a year old, it has been a rollercoaster journey. From the off, the WhatsApp groups captured the mood of farmers frustrated at the state of the sector. Meetings around the country drew huge crowds, and the 86-point beef plan itself framed the agenda.
Then came direct action.
A staged “funeral” with the delivery of a coffin to the Irish Farmers Journal-organised Beef Summit in May caught the attention of the non-farming national media.
A protest in Dublin in July drew large crowds and was supported by other farm organisations, although notably not the IFA. A call for Minister Creed to meet them fell on deaf ears, and two weeks later came the decision to go on the gates.
Following a fortnight of protest, talks were convened. It may be forgotten already, but that was the first time Beef Plan were present in such talks.
Beef Plan negotiators seemed initially to accept the outcome of the talks, but disowned them within hours. The second round of protests became an inevitability.
As Beef Plan itself was injuncted, its leaders were absent from the protests. As farmers became more militant, the Independent Farmers emerged, more radical and suspicious of “the establishment” than Beef Plan ever were.
Meanwhile, others, unimpressed by the way the protests spiralled out of control, are gravitating back to the IFA and ICSA. A united front would help to settle any such nerves, but the sight of two separate beef producer groups, one led by Eamon Corley, the other by Eoin Donnelly, is hardly reassuring. Both are currently touring the country competing for members.
The Beef Plan claims 20,000 members, a remarkable support base to have built up in a year. That strength will either be confirmed or called into question by the voting register for its elections.