[Sinn Fein]

5th June 2002

MacManus demands end to ``import free-for-all''

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on the EU, Councillor Seán MacManus has called for an end to the current ``meat import free-for-all'', and has issued a warning to the incoming government and Minister for Agriculture that decisive action is needed in the interests of both public health and the Irish farming sector.

Speaking to a meeting of supporters in West Sligo, Cllr. MacManus said:

``It is my firm belief that the incoming government must find a mechanism for restricting the level of meat imports to Ireland. Further, it must ban produce where labelling and other regulations are not up to the standards to which Irish producers and processors are legally obliged to conform.''

``Apparently, the health of Irish consumers was not a priority when EU/Irish government drew up the agreements permitting such meat imports. The prevailing situation contrasts sharply with that governing meat handling practices in Ireland, where farmers and others can be thrown out of the business almost overnight for noncompliance. In my view, the current absence of traceability and labelling requirements for imported produce makes a mockery of complex regime of controls imposed on those operating within the Irish meat industry. It is incomprehensible how this contradiction is allowed to stand.

``I want to clearly state that Sinn Fein will not stand idly by while public health is put at risk, and while our producers are driven out of the meat industry due of the overwhelming volume of uncontrolled cheap exports being dumped in the Irish market.

``Sinn Fein will be demanding that the incoming government and Agriculture Minister do whatever is necessary to end the existing import free-for-all, and to ensure that Irish produce has priority in all retail outlets, hotels, restaurants, and fast-food outlets across the country.''

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