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Minister Coughlan meets with David Cairns MP, recently appointed Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, accompanied by Minister of State, Brendan Smith TD, met today in Dublin with Mr David Cairns MP, the recently appointed Under Secretary of State with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland.

Both Ministers acknowledged the strong co-operation between officials in the two Departments, North and South. They reviewed areas of co-operation, in particular, the ongoing liaison in developing and implementing contingency plans in the event of an outbreak of avian 'flu on the island.

Also on animal health, both Departments continue to progress the development of an all-island animal health and welfare strategy and both Ministers agreed to give further impetus to its development. They noted the main achievements to date including the development of complementary approaches towards preventing the introduction of animal disease, the convergence of policies on Bovine TB and Brucellosis, sheep identification and portal controls. There has also been excellent co-operation between both administrations in dealing with cross border fraud, which has resulted in a number of successful outcomes to high profile investigations.

The position of both jurisdictions in relation to the implementation of the Nitrates Directive was also reviewed.

In addition, the Ministers discussed their respective approaches to developments at EU level including the current round of WTO talks.

Speaking after the meeting, Minister Coughlan said: "This was a very valuable meeting where we were able to discuss a range of issues common to the agriculture industries and food sector, both North and South. We reviewed the current areas of co-operation between both Departments including contingency plans in the event of an outbreak of avian 'flu. We also examined the progress of the all-island animal health and welfare strategy and the status of both administrations in relation to the implementation of the Nitrates Directive."

For his part Mr Cairns said: "Today was a very useful opportunity to meet my counterpart here in Dublin to discuss a range of current agricultural issues of mutual interest, such as Avian Influenza, the all-island animal health and welfare strategy and the Nitrates Directive. I look forward to working with Mary Coughlan on such matters over the months ahead."

11 July, 2006

Date Released: 11 July 2006