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Urgent all Ireland cross departmental response needed to prepare for Bird Flu virus - Mary Lou McDonald

20 October, 2005

Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called for an urgent all Ireland and cross departmental strategy to be put in place to combat any possible Bird Flu outbreak in Ireland. Ms McDonald made her comments as Mary Harney is in England today for a meeting of EU health ministers to discuss plans for dealing with avian flu.

Ms McDonald warned that a coordinated response from both Departments of Health, Departments of Agriculture and the all Ireland cross border working groups was required to ensure 'full preparedness'.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is on record as far back as the beginning of this year, calling for a joint all Ireland approach to the issue of the Bird Flu virus. Such a pandemic, were it to emerge, would respect no land borders. Therefore from a public health and animal health perspective, it is imperative that there is an all Ireland and cross departmental working group put in place to implement a working strategy.

"There should be no political impediments to the establishment of such a taskforce. In the six counties, the lack of political progress is frustrating a unified response, particularly the unionist refusal to engage with Sinn Féin. In the south, Minister Harney's department has previously postponed two meetings on this matter. Her department asked for the postponement of a meeting with their northern counterparts until the new health structures had bedded in.

"My colleagues Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and John O'Dowd MLA, spokespersons for Health, Martin Ferris and Michelle Gildernew, spokespersons for Agriculture and Rural Development, have been in contact with the relevant departments to press for such an approach." ENDS

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