FARMERS in North and West Clare may boycott the majority of marts in the county if Ennistymon Mart is sold, a local representative has said.
The possible sale of the town-centre site to a discount retailer has provoked anger among the farming community in the mart’s catchment area of Ennistymon, Kilshanny, Doolin, Liscannor, Miltown Malbay, Mullagh, and Inagh.
Members of the Irish Farmers’ Association will meet on Wednesday next to discuss what action to take in relation to the possible sale.
“I expect that members will look at a peaceful protest outside Clare Marts in Ennis and maybe we will contact Aldi too because they should know that local people aren’t very happy about this,” said Tom Clair, vice chairman of the Ennistymon branch of the IFA.
“There is outrage in the area. We want the mart here to stay open. If this goes ahead now, there won’t be a place for a farmer to park his bicycle in his own place, in Ennistymon,” he added.
Ennistymon Mart is run by Clare Marts Ltd, the farmer-owned co-operative, which also runs livestock marts in Ennis, Kilrush, Scariff and Kilfenora. If a sale of the site goes ahead, Mr Clair expects a boycott of the company.
“A boycott looks like the way to go if the mart is sold. Hopefully this will not happen but if it does cattle will be going out of the Clare Marts area. We are going to have to go to Gort or Sixmilebridge. It is putting serious expense on people to bring cattle from 20 to 30 miles away. It is putting nearly €20 a head on a beast to bring them from Ennistymon to Ennis but if you are hurt enough you will travel, either to Gort or Sixmilebridge, or sell them on the internet or sell them on the land,” Mr Clair stated.
In 2011, the sale of the Ennistymon site was mooted. At the time, farmers in North Clare expressed their dissatisfaction about the possible closure. Clare Marts Ltd later confirmed that Ennistymon Mart was not “offered for sale” but approaches had been made by “different parties” in relation to the site. It was not sold at that time and has remained open since.
The Clare Champion understands that members of Clare Marts met recently and decided to enter negotiations with discount retailer Aldi.
Martin McNamara, chairman of Clare Marts Ltd, was unavailable to comment on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Aldi said the company had no comment to make in relation to current negotiations regarding possible sites and no comment either in relation to any possible expansion of the company into North Clare.
IFA Ennistymon chairman, Pat O’Donoghue said farmers in the area are “shocked to hear the board of Clare Marts has agreed to enter into negotiations with the supermarket chain Aldi with a view of selling Ennistymon mart without having even informed locals of this fact first. This has seriously aggrieved locals as they view their mart as providing a very valuable local service.”
Tom Clair explained some of the history behind the mart.
“It was ever a community field and it was donated in 1956 or ‘57 free of charge to the committee that headed up the building of the mart in town. At that stage to get share capital in Ireland was almost impossible. A tenner was the minimum share capital accepted. When the tenners weren’t coming in because people didn’t have them, they took five pounds from people who couldn’t afford the tenner. It is very deep. It is the only spot in North Clare that the farmer can use for different facilities,” he said.
As well as being a vital facility for farmers, Mr Clair believes the mart is important for parking for people attending funerals in the town. “Another concern for us is what this will do to the existing local shops,” he said.
“We are not opposed to Aldi or someone else coming in but what we are totally opposed to is them setting up in our patch,” he added. “The land belongs to Clare Marts but it was our patch down through the generations. It would be the first time there isn’t a place in Ennistymon to offer a beast for sale. Fighting this won’t be easy but people power is all that is left to us. The board should realise the hurt that is being inflicted in North Clare,” Mr Clair added.
A meeting of IFA members and supporters of Ennistymon Mart will take place on Wednesday evening in the Falls Hotel at 8.30pm.