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UFU delegation succumbs to DUP financial blackmail

24 October, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun has today called on the Ulster Farmers Union to clarify their position after a Fermanagh delegation of UFU members withdrew from a scheduled meeting due to take place next month in Brussels.

The 50 strong Fermanagh UFU delegation are due to travel to Brussels on November 9th to meet with MEPs. The group, facilitated by Eurolinks and part funded through DUP MEP Jim Allister's parliamentary visitors allowance, had set up a meeting with Bairbre de Brun. However, following threats from the DUP MEP to withdraw the financial assistance if the group met Sinn Féin, the UFU delegation cancelled the meeting.

Bairbre de Brun said:

'Sinn Féin has worked closely with the UFU in recent years to ensure that the needs of our farmers and rural communities are heard within the community and voluntary sector and at every level of government. During all of this time the UFU have stressed their desire to work positively and constructively with all political parties in a non partisan manner. Our relationship has been constructive and positive.

'In light of this I am amazed that they have taken the decision to cancel the planned meeting.

'The fact that they took this decision under what can only be described as sectarian financial blackmail by Jim Allister MEP is all the worse. This comes in a week where Mary Lou McDonald MEP and I met a delegation of the UFU, that included one of its Deputy Presidents, Kenneth Sharkey, to discuss a range of issues including the bid to remove the beef export ban.

'Sinn Féin is the second largest political party in the North of Ireland. We represent hundreds of thousands of people across the island. The decision by the UFU delegation from Fermanagh to cancel this meeting is not only a slight against our party, it is a slight against our electorate. They are effectively telling the 200,000 people who vote for Sinn Féin, including many farmers, that their voices and their opinions are not worth listening too.

'Sinn Féin is calling on the President of the UFU, Campbell Tweed to clarify their position and explain whether or not he is personally happy with his members boycotting an elected representative under pressure from the DUP.

'If it is indeed the case that the UFU are going to allow this situation to continue, Sinn Féin will have to seriously review our approach to the UFU at all levels.

'I will also be raising the matter with Eurolinks to see if such behaviour is compatible with their project's aims and objectives and that of their funders.

'Jim Allister's threat to withdraw his financial support from this delegation is outrageous. It is completely at variance with the practice we pursue, where we are happy to facilitate meetings visitors wish to have. Indeed I have actively sought a common approach to issues with my fellow MEPs, including Jim Allister. ENDS

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