IFA President Joe Healy unveiled a plaque in Bantry last week to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous Farmers’ Rights Campaign of 1966.
Joe Healy said “The right to negotiate, which we fought for 50 years ago, is as important today as it was in 1966. Those who answered the call half a century ago are owed a huge debt of gratitude from farmers”.
Joe Healy said the Campaign of 1966 was the single most important event in the history of NFA/IFA and was defined by the determination, commitment and perseverance of a group of people for the betterment of farm families.
Surviving veterans and family members representing the 16 men who left Bantry in October 1966 were present for the unveiling of the plaque in Bantry Square last Thursday afternoon.
The aim of the Campaign was to advance the Declaration of Farmers’ Rights. It was based on the style of Martin Luther King, the American civil rights campaigner, and drew inspiration from the famous March on Washington in 1963. The Declaration reminded the Government of the day of the Proclamation of 1916, in particular that the Republic guaranteed ‘equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’. It called on the Government to honour the promises of 1916 and proclaim and declare 11 basic rights of the rural and farm families of Ireland.
Joe Healy said, “This commemoration is about honouring those who marched in ’66. Their sacrifice and commitment to the cause must never be forgotten. Without them, we in NFA & IFA could not have achieved so much on behalf of farm families”.
The IFA President said he was reminded of the contribution of those who participated in the Farmers Rights Campaign during the most recent campaign on the Budget. “Thanks to the tireless work and sacrifice of our forefathers, we had earned the right to sit across the table from the most senior Ministers of the Cabinet. It’s less than a month ago that I walked up those same steps with an IFA delegation for a meeting with the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and the Minister for Public Expenditure Pascal Donohoe”.
Joe Healy said, “At that meeting, we were in a position to make a strong case on behalf of farm families. And we came away with a package to improve incomes. That is our core work. And it will remain so. As we build for the future, we remember the past. We salute those great men and women from the Farmers’ Rights Campaign.”
Led by Rickard Deasy, the group that left the square in Bantry in October 1966 were to walk the 217 miles to Dublin were;
William Cadogan, Michael Crowley, Eugene Downing, Sean Holland, Michael Keohane, Sam Kingston, Danny Andrew McCarthy, Jim Morris, Tom Mullins, Sean O’Brien, Fachtna O’Callaghan, Sean O’Driscoll, Jackie Sullivan, James O’Sullivan, Johnny O’Sullivan, Jim Tobin.
The commemoration in Bantry was also attended by Ruaidhri Deasy, who carried on the proud tradition of his father Rickard in representing farmers in the various roles he has held in IFA.