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All Ireland Bird flu response now essential - Bairbre de Brún

20 February, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today called for an urgent All Ireland taskforce to combat the growing threat of bird flu in the EU, ensuring that the public has clear and precise information. She said that it seemed to be a case of 'if and not when' bird flu reached Ireland. Bairbre de Brún made her comments after a new outbreak of bird flu was identified in France. Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"New avian flu cases are springing up regularly from Africa to South East Asia to the European Union and now in both France and Germany. Given the frequency and geographical spread of the outbreak, it would be over optimistic to believe that Ireland could not be affected at some stage by the disease.

"A coordinated response from both Departments of Agriculture, Departments of Health and all- Ireland and cross border working groups is essential. In this context, the need for some level of all-island response has been accepted by governments. However, Sinn Féin believes that from a public health and animal health perspective, it is imperative that there is an all Ireland and cross departmental working group to implement a working strategy to prevent and combat a bird flu outbreak in Ireland and to ensure that the public has clear and precise information.

"At EU level a number of safeguards have been put in place, including a ban on the import of livestock from affected regions. However MEPs seek tougher measures including improved early warning systems so that the EU is immediately informed about the virus, regardless of whether it is the lethal H5N1 strain or not.

"It is essential that all of these departments from Europe right through to state level inform the public as individual and collective departments as to their plans to combat a bird flu outbreak in Ireland." ENDS

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