Irish farmers demand action against `mobs'

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Farmers in the Irish Republic yesterday urged the British government to stop being "weak and indecisive" over the livestock trade and demanded action against "the mobs of extremists" who have halted trade at ports across the country. John Donnelly, President of the Irish Farmers' Association, was speaking after Irish Ferries decided to halt livestock shipments through Holyhead in North Wales. The port is crucial to the Irish beef industry - 20 per cent of the country's live exports, worth about £40m, flow through Holyhead each year.

The company was requested by Stena Sealink, which owns Holyhead, to stop carrying livestock lorries because it feared protests may disrupt the general port traffic.

"The people who are blocking these exports are working outside the law by blocking the ports and stopping a legitimate trade. We're not going to allow ourselves to be cut-off from the biggest markets in the world by people using illegal tactics," said MrDonnelly.

Ivan Yates, the Irish agriculture minister, has commissioned a report into the knock-on effects the ferry company's decision will have on the livestock industry.

A High Court judge was last night considering whether to grant an injunction to International Traders Ferries, which operates livestock shipments through Shoreham in West Sussex. ITF is seeking to compel the port authority to accept the trade until the contract runs out next month.

The trade was blocked through the port on Sunday after Adur District Council discovered Shoreham did not have the correct planning permission to accept the livestock shipments at the berth used by ITF.

The port claims that it has no other berths available for ITF and, even if one was available, it would be contrary to the spirit of the council's decision to accept the trade. A decision is expected today.

Meanwhile, Northamptonshire Police were yesterday investigating incendiary devices thought to have been planted by animal rights extremists.

Army bomb disposal experts were called in on Sunday morning after four devices were found underneath lorries owned by a haulage firm based in the village of Great Billing.