[Sinn Fein]

6 March 200

Lessons of foot and mouth must be implemented by Government, says Cavan/Monaghan TD

Also speaking at the press conference, the Sinn Fein TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said:

``As a responsible party we had no hesitation in postponing this weekend's Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, both as a precaution and to send out a further clear signal about the seriousness of the potential damage to our agricultural industry and to the economy generally.''

Speaking on the foot and mouth issue itself, the Cavan/Monaghan deputy continued:

``It is quite clear now that the initial response from the Irish Government was sluggish. There was no emergency plan in place and, initially at least, Government efforts were badly co-ordinated. People have had difficulty obtaining the appropriate disinfectants and high prices have been charged by unscrupulous suppliers. I call on the Minister for Agriculture and Food to make these products freely available at distribution centres throughout the country.

``This Border deputy can state without fear of contradiction that the so-called ring of steel around the border is more illusion than reality. For example, many busy roads have not had the required disinfectant mat facilities and many of these are of inadequate size to address the problem.

``It needs to be said that if we had a coherent and co-ordinated All-Ireland approach to agriculture, including monitoring and enforcement of stricter regulations regarding animal health, movement of animals and standards in the production and distribution of food, then the Border, which is impossible to seal, would be irrelevant as far as this disease is concerned.

``The outbreak has highlighted major structural problems in Irish and EU agriculture. The lessons should be learned and action taken.  The Irish Government should now work to see the EU-wide banning of speculative dealing in large numbers of farm animals who are moved over long distances to capitalise on price differentials. Such activity benefits only the speculator, spreads disease and is bad for animal health and food safety.''

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