Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
47. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which the development of animal health policy is being pursued in the context of north south cooperation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24586/06]
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): There is already a long history of co-operation between the administrations north and south on animal health issues. The administrations have traditionally shared information at local and national levels on disease control and surveillance issues and have worked together to combat illegal movements of animals and animal products. During the Foot and Mouth emergency of 2001 the co-operation and consultation at official, Ministerial and political levels was vital. Likewise, both administrations are currently co-operating and sharing information on measures relating to avian influenza.
The establishment of the North South Ministerial Council (NCMC) offered an opportunity to build on existing co-operation arrangements and provided a framework for the development of an all-island animal health policy.
The main objectives of the Council are to foster co-operation and to devise a common, unified animal health strategy for the island as a whole. This involves the convergence of animal health policies and the development of joint strategies for dealing with animal diseases. The ultimate objectives are to establish a common import regime and equivalent internal arrangements with a view to achieving free movement of animals and animal products within the island.
The programme of work mandated by the NSMC strategy, has been taken forward by nine working groups at official level. The remit of these groups includes TB and Brucellosis, TSEs (BSE and Scrapie), veterinary medicines, other Zoonoses and animal diseases, disease surveillance, animal welfare, import and export of live animals and animal products, animal identification, traceability and cross-border aspects of fraud.
The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island, the convergence of policies in regard to animal identification and Scrapie and the strengthening of co-ordination and co-operation between both administrations on a variety of issues such as TB, Brucellosis, FMD, BSE, Avian Influenza, cross-border fraud etc. These groups continue to report progress on exchange of information and in implementation of initiatives aimed at policy convergence and the development of a common unified strategy for the island as a whole.
The Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council includes representation from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, (DARD). DARD was also represented at recent meetings of the Avian Influenza Advisory Group and will also be represented at future meetings of the Group.
Since the decision at EU level to lift the BSE ban on exports from the United Kingdom from 3 May 2006, arrangements are in place and working well between the two administrations facilitating the trade of cattle from Northern Ireland for slaughter, breeding and production.
The achievement of an all-island animal health strategy involves complex dialogue and negotiation over a range of areas between the Irish, Northern Irish and British authorities. Ultimately, the agreement of the European Union will be required.
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