[Sinn Fein]

3 February 2001

Sinn Fein meets Lebanese officials on trade visit

Sinn Fein representatives will hold talks with government, trade and agriculture officials during a four-day visit to Lebanon beginning today.

Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member and Kerry County Councillor Martin Ferris is being accompanied by Monaghan UDC Councillor Owen Smyth.  Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was scheduled to lead the delegation but he is unable to travel because of a crisis meeting of the North Eastern Health Board on Monday which will decide the fate of maternity services in Monaghan and Louth.

During their visit, the Sinn Fein representatives will meet President Lahoud, Prime Minister Rafic El Hariri and the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

On their departure from Dublin Airport, Cllr Martin Ferris said:  ``This visit gives us an opportunity to establish and develop trading partnerships for the mutual benefit of the people of Ireland and Lebanon.  Our discussions will focus on the areas of agricultural interests, including information technology in the farm sector.  We are particularly concerned with reversing the decline in Irish beef exports to Lebanon caused by the flooding of the market with German beef which is under-cutting Irish prices by nearly a third.''

The Sinn Fein representatives said they will update the Department of Agriculture and farming organisations on the outcome of their talks when they return to Ireland.  ENDS

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