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Minister Coughlan bans pigeon racing from France

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced an immediate ban on pigeon racing to Ireland from France and the Channel Islands. Racing between Britain and Ireland and throughout the island will continue to be permitted.

The Minister said that she had taken this decision following confirmation of cases of H5N1 avian 'flu in swans in the Moselle region of eastern France and a subsequent decision by the French authorities to ban pigeon racing throughout France. The Minister also confirmed that her officials had been in close contact in recent days with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Belfast and, given the all-island approach which the two Departments have been operating, said that a similar measure was also being introduced in Northern Ireland today.

Minister Coughlan said that current ornithological advice available to her Department, from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, suggested that the recently confirmed cases in the Czech Republic, Germany and France did not significantly increase the risk to Ireland and that the overall risk of the introduction of H5N1 avian 'flu to Ireland remained low. Nonetheless, the Minister said that today's measure was "appropriate and entirely consistent with the actions taken by the French and UK authorities".

The Minister reiterated that, notwithstanding the current low risk to Ireland, there was no room for complacency and she urged continued vigilance among the general public. Minister Coughlan also strongly advised the poultry industry of the need to maintain very high levels of biosecurity and added that a considerable amount of information and advice, including on biosecurity, for the poultry industry and the general public is available at www.birdflu.ie. In particular, the Minister reminded poultry flockowners of the grant scheme, introduced by her department, for the installation of water chlorination facilities in commercial poultry units.

In conclusion, the Minister reminded people of her Department's helpline to which unusual patterns of wild bird or poultry mortalities should be reported - 1890 252 283.

9 July, 2007

Date Released: 09 July 2007