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Sinn Féin call for action plan on free movement of cattle

14 March, 2006


Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has demanded an action plan for restoring our quality beef to the supermarket shelves throughout Europe, and a detailed timetable of when animals could move freely throughout the island of Ireland.

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has demanded an action plan for restoring our quality beef to the supermarket shelves throughout Europe, and a detailed timetable of when animals could move freely throughout the island of Ireland.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Farmers have lived for over ten years now with the hope that the unjust beef ban would be removed. Now the decision has finally been made.

"Less that a week later these headlines have been overtaken by news of DARD's incompetence in relation to the Nitrates Directive. However, given the landmark decision by the EU Standing Committee on Animal Health last Wednesday, I did not expect that DARD would have tried to bury the bad news in relation to the Waste Management Plan.

"What I expected was a an action plan for restoring the best quality beef in the world to the supermarket shelves in the rest of Europe, and a detailed timetable of when animals could move freely throughout the island of Ireland.

"I am angry that highly paid experts, have again totally failed to give any direction and leadership to the farming and rural communities of the North of Ireland. There can be no excuses, from either the Minister Jeff Rooker, or from the Permanent Secretary Pat Toal, the real man in charge.

"The Minister has been in post for almost a year. At his first engagement at the Balmoral Show Breakfast reception, he spoke about the range of issues affecting farming in the North, specifically the Nitrates issue and the Beef Ban, and the need for a partnership approach.

"The decision last week did not come as a bolt out of the blue, yet no decisive action or leadership has been shown. No attempt to develop the partnership approach.

"One of the most important aspects of the decision was that of allowing the trade in live cattle. Farmers here are especially aware of the paramount importance of this decision. At last years Balmoral show the Minister and Permanent Secretary sat and listened at how the best cattle in the South were barred from entering the North because of the Beef Ban restrictions. Yet there is still no word from DARD about any timetable for the free movement of animals within Ireland, something that was promised many years ago.

"Jeff Rooker has allowed his staff a total free reign. The continued suspension of the Assembly means there is no accountability for DARD staff. A huge major question mark remains about the willingness of DARD to put in place policies that were agreed several years ago under the North South Ministerial Council. In a recent case, which I was involved in, senior staff within DARD could not even telephone their opposite number in the South.

"At the moment DARD have very serious questions to answer on many fronts, from agriculture to rural development, but without accountability and a locally elected Assembly with a local Minister, powerful backroom staff can continue to draw increasing power onto themselves and away from local people.

"There is not a single farmer I have met with any belief that there is any leadership and foresight within DARD, yet those in charge in Dundonald House continue to build the future of the farming and rural communities in the North of Ireland on a house of cards." ENDS

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