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Gildernew defends position on compensation for farmers

21 January, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle Gildernew, MP MLA, has defended her actions in dealing with the alpha-nortestosterone issue.

Speaking after today's Assembly debate, which had been tabled by PJ Bradley (MLA South Down), the Minister said:

"Alpha-nortestosterone is an important issue for those farmers affected and I welcomed this opportunity for debate and to clarify my position.
"On becoming Minister, there was no requirement for me to re-open this issue, as the Department was already in the process of implementing the Wall Report, which concluded that the Department had acted on the best scientific advice available at the time and had acted within the legislation. However I was acutely aware of the anger and frustration within the farming community and I made it an early priority to deal with this issue on taking up office."

Outlining her actions, Ms Gildernew said:

"As Minister I am content that I proactively dealt with this issue when coming into office, having met the farmers involved, apologised for the trauma caused and having gone beyond our statutory obligations by making a goodwill payment to farmers to cover the cost of condemned animals and help alleviate any hardship they were facing.

"I believe that this was an honourable, balanced and correct response which recognises the financial implications to the livestock owner. The Ruddock Report gives us a positive way forward and the Department will implement its recommendations to ensure better handling arrangements in the future. Because of this, and as the Department's actions were proportionate and in line with legal requirements, I could not support today's motion." ENDS

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