Donegal Mart is normally a hive of activity for Friday’s cattle sales but today there were just three animals in the ring as a result because of a boycott.
Instead of the hordes of farmers normally taking part, there were a handful of men, scattered in small groups talking quietly among themselves before the auction was due to start.
Earlier this morning, Mart Secretary Seamus Carbin handed in his resignation. He is the fifth committee member to resign this week, with Charlie McGinty, Frankie Deane, Gerry Mulhern and John Coburn having stood down at Tuesday’s stormy EGM.
Mart Chairman William McElhinney called the ongoing protests “a disgrace”. He said: “It is with great regret that we have accepted the resignation of Secretary Seamus Carbin this morning.
“The current committee got a mandate when we were elected at the AGM in October to carry on running the mart but this damaging campaign is continuing nonetheless.
“There are fifteen jobs at risk and to put those jobs in jeopardy in the run-up to Christmas is a form of bullying.
“Farmers also rely on the mart to raise money before Christmas and I believe a lot of them are staying away today because of bullying and intimidation.
“It’s a disgrace. It’s heading to a dictatorship instead of a democracy.
“It’s very hard to take on a personal level. As Chairman, I know that I have done nothing wrong. I don’t want to resign because of intimidation. Also, I have a duty to the 127 shareholders who elected me and to the Mart.
Frankie Deane, one of the committee members who resigned on Tuesday night, commented: “I don’t think they were left with any choice but to boycott and it shows that the farmers are not here today. Does that not tell a story? It could have been simply solved but it wasn’t. Remember there is a farming community at risk here as well, with nowhere to go with their cattle.
“It’s not personal, I have a professional problem. The history of this mart is there long enough and it’s time for a change. We have to listen to the 118 farmers who came from all over, from Kilkeel and Athlone and Carndonagh, and voted that they had no confidence in the committee.
“I won’t be a committee member ever again until things change.”
There are reports that there may be a blockade of the sheep market next Tuesday but Mr McElhinney said he was hopeful that a way forward can be agreed by then.