27 October 2005 Edition

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Union 'blackmailed' by DUP

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called on the Ulster Farmers' Union to clarify their position after a union delegation withdrew from a meeting with Sinn Féin scheduled to take place next month in Brussels.

The 50-strong Fermanagh delegation is due to travel to Brussels in November to meet with MEPs. The group had planned to meet Bairbre de Brun but cancelled following threats from a DUP MEP to withdraw funding if the union met Sinn Féin. The group had partly financed its visit through DUP MEP Jim Allister's parliamentary visitors allowance.

"Sinn Féin has worked closely with the UFU in recent years to ensure that the needs of farmers and rural communities are heard. 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," said de Brun.

"The fact that they have taken the decision to cancel a scheduled meeting with Sinn Féin under what can only be described as sectarian blackmail is all the worse. This comes in a week where Mary Lou McDonald and I met a delegation of the UFU to discuss a range of issues including the bid to remove the beef export ban," said de Brun.

Sinn Féin is calling on the President of the UFU to clarify the union's position. "If the UFU are going to allow this situation to continue," said de Brun: " Sinn Féin will have to seriously review our approach to the UFU at all levels."

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