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BIFFO SHELL SHOCKED AT FARMERS PROTEST; Taoiseach is pelted with eggs over cutbacks in rural grants.

Byline: AINE HEGARTY

THE Taoiseach's car was pelted with eggs by furious farmers yesterday when he turned up to open a new road.

Up to 400 protesters vented their fury at cutbacks in rural agricultural grants when Brian Cowen visited Galway.

Members of the Irish Farmers Association booed, heckled and banged sticks as the Taoiseach spoke at a ceremony to open a new stretch of the M6 between Ballinasloe and Athlone.

They are furious at the Government's decision to scrap the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme for new applicants.

The IFA said closing entry will devastate the livelihoods of many.

IFA Connacht vice-president Michael Silke said: "People are really angry and the Taoiseach has to go back and reverse this decision.We have a lot of families in rural Ireland who are depending on the Reps scheme and depending on the disadvantaged area payment for 100% of their income. This is being taken away from them. Our Government has to go back and stop attacking the vulnerable people in rural Ireland."

Another furious farmer blasted: "This Government has abandoned rural Ireland.

"I want to ask the Taoiseach is there much economic growth on the dole? "Because that's where 10,000 farming families are going to end up if he doesn't reverse these savage cuts." Another farmer said: "It's lovely to see another road into the West but unfortunately it will be a new road into the wilderness." The Taoiseach defended the cutbacks to the scheme saying the Government could not continue to offer the grants to new applicants.

He said: "We have to ensure that those who are already in the scheme, that there are resources there to meet those commitments.

"It would be irresponsible of any Government where there's an over-subscription or beyond what's in the Budget to allow it to continue because that puts at risk the payments for those already in the scheme."

GOOD NUDES FOR RTE: PAGE 21

CAPTION(S):

LISTENING Cowen with farmers SCRAMBLED Egg shells circled on Taoiseach's car FURIOUS Cowen faces clenched fists ROAD RAGE Farmers vent their anger at opening of Ballinasloe to Athlone road yesterday in Co Galway
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2009
Words:356
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