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Call for investigation into Sellafield link with increased birth defects in the North East

21 February, 2007

Sinn Fein Environment spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD today called on the Government to investigate the links between a fire at the Sellafield nuclear energy plant 50 years ago and the increase in birth defects in babies in the North East since then.

The Louth TD said, "Doctors based in Co. Louth have said that the number of births of children with Down Syndrome has increased four-fold in Dundalk in the last 35 years. A fire broke out in Sellafield that burned for three days in 1957. After that a cloud of smoke was believed to be the cause of an outbreak of illness among some of the pupils in St. Louis Girls' School, Dundalk. Dr. Patricia Sheehan found that there was a notably high rate of still-births, miscarriages, early childhood deaths, spina bifida and Down Syndrome in babies that were born to women who had been St. Louis' pupils in 1957.

"Local GP Dr. Mary Grehan is calling on the Irish government to investigate the links between the fire in Sellafield and the high rate of children with Down Syndrome being born in Louth and Sinn Féin is fully supporting this. This fire was an official secret in Britain for 40 years. Ireland has the highest rate of Down Syndrome births in the world and Dundalk has emerged as a pocket where there is an abnormally high level compared to the national average. It is quite clear that the onus is now on the Irish Government to investigate this.

"Sinn Fein has consistently said that Sellafield is a dangerous and unsafe plant and should be closed immediately. Now we are seeing the results of a fire from 50 years ago. What will happen if there is a larger scale nuclear accident tomorrow? That scenario is a real and apparent danger given that we have seen fires, leaks, missing nuclear materials, and breaches of EU safeguard standards all in the past few years. The Irish government must investigate these patterns of birth defects as well as the extraordinarily high incidences of cancer in Co. Louth and then they must make it clear to the British government that nuclear reprocessing Sellafield must immediately. There are too many health and environmental dangers for it to be tolerated any longer." ENDS

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